In the future we will all be environmentalists

Imagine if you can, a futuristic history lesson that captures our own historical now. There’s interactive textbooks showing a rising line graph of carbon parts per million plotted against increasing temperature. As the children’s eyes track along the graph, dynamic illustrations pop up from the industrial revolution, through to Shell poking that first oil pipe into the Arctic last week…

“What will happen” – the world weary teacher will say – “if you artificially and dramatically alter the atmosphere in which plants, humans and ecosystems have evolved over millenia?”

“Change will happen…” – some child will venture.

“Yes – please swipe to the next page to see how” – and children will gasp in horror at the ignorance and selfishness of their predecessors, in the same way we did when we were children, and turned pages on Apartheid, the slave trade and the Roman Colosseum.


Let’s back up, to the history that we know.

In 1899, the commissioner of the US patent office, Charles H. Duell, famously said:

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

This of course seems childishly blunderous, in hindsight, with the advances the Twentieth Century would bring. However in the fifty years that Duell had lived – he had already seen the invention of American football, the internal combustion engine and the solar cell. He had also seen the abolition of slavery: His country split into two as the people of the Confederate States guarded their right to keep 3million Africans and their descendants in captivity. It must indeed have been tempting to feel that wrongs had been righted and that civilisation was at its height.

The American poet philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, was a contemporary of Duell’s. In the mid C19th he went to live in a cabin, in the woods, 15miles outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He spent his time reflecting on how overly complicated everything seemed to have already become by 1845, and wrote in his subsequently published work Walden that we should strive for “Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!

In the future we will all be environmentalists

The complexities of Boston in 1841

Whilst Thoreau would be dismayed by the course of history, he did however have an uncanny knack for being on the right side of it. He was a passionate antislavery campaigner and was an active participant in the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves reach Free States. Today of course, slavery seems like an ancient anachronism; like night and day – its immorality so startlingly apparent – its supporters so deplorable. And yet, to judge societies who kept men, women and children in slavery, is to perhaps overestimate our own point of vantage, in a similar way that Duell did – an assumption that we live in a time of moral ground zero where everything, to paraphrase the patent commissioner, that can be thought, has already been thought.

In illustration, take Thoreau’s view on vegetarianism:

“I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilised.”

Such radicalism over vegetables still seems extreme today. About as radical as his contemporary stance on slavery would have seemed in his time, or his commitment to protecting the environment.

In order therefore that we avoid the same fate as Duell, we surely must be open to the idea that societies exist in a state of constantly shifting status quo, where our present values may one day seem reprehensible: Where once the Romans sipped fermented grapes, watched gladiatorial flesh being torn in a ring and congratulated themselves on such wholesome good living – today we still happily eat meat.

And yet, our carnivorous ways will not be what ultimately stigmatises our historical moment in the history books. It will be something bigger than that, which doesn’t bleed and stain the floor of any colosseum, or weep, and ache, and rattle its slave shackles before us.

There’s an elephant in our atmosphere. It’s injustice is silent and fed by apathy and ignorance and the pacifying soundbites of pay-rolled climate change deniers who compete to scream the loudest that nothing, in fact, is going on at all. When the ebbs and flows of ice ages fail to provide an answer, and the carbon that had always previously been stored underground, has been released; the damage will perhaps be irrevocable; the changes to our planet will be undeniably manifest and these rent-a-quote pseudo scientists will have long since changed the signs on their door. Environmental policy will finally become one of the main criteria by which we choose our governments, and by today’s standards – we will all be environmentalists.

The new children’s textbooks will then start to be written. The page entry will come just after the abolition of bear baiting, fox hunting and the triumph of gay marriage. And then in class, there’ll come a question, similar to the ones we puzzled too as children – 

“How did they not see that they had got it so wrong?”

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Challenge Complete – 31,000m Above The Smog in July / DESFAFIO COMPLETADO – 31,000m Subidos Arriba del Smog


Me on Mortal CombatI went into the mountains this month and climbed a vertical KM above the city everyday because I hoped to…

  •  Photograph the winter pollution epidemic in Santiago from above, that sends children and the elderly to hospital with chronic lung complications.
  • Show an enduring commitment to a difficult challenge; similar to the greater one of reducing our own carbon footprint and living more
    sustainable lifestyles.
  • Enjoy the mountains – The sunrises and sunsets, like this one on the last morning with my friend René Castel.



Today I am very tired.

I ran 432km (268miles) and climbed 31,471m (103,251.’) I have finished the month with two
very bruised feet, a recurring popping sensation in my ear from all that pressure change, a punctured bum from falling on a cactus but, more importantly, a wealth of experiences from running with over 15 different Chilean friends and supporters who have been interested in the project and who wanted to share some of the journey in the Andes.

There has been a lot of interest in the issue
the challenge has raised as well. Via Green Bean Trails social media I developed ideas about the problem:

  • The constituents of air pollution
  • Where it comes from
  • Live data to assess how we are affected (amazing resource)
  • Long term health effects

but also tried to suggest how we as individuals are empowered to make changes and model a powerful commitment to the climate and our environment we inhabit by:photo (3) (1)

  • Highlighting local initiatives in Chile to reduce contamination of air and water
  • Reducing dietary carbon emissions by 50% when choosing a plant based diet
  • Promoting recycling and and green transport

There is certainly a detailed GreenBeanTrails investigative article on the way. For now though, whilst I catch my breath, I’ll just sign off with this quote borrowed from AliceWalker by the conservationist and North Face Founder Doug Tompkins to describe his work:

“Each of us (should) aim to pay our rent for living on the planet, and somehow leave the planet better for our efforts.”

(If you have enjoyed following the challenge, or feel encouraged by its intentions, or just want more adventurous stuff similar to this please Like the page on Facebook and share a link to the 31,000m challenge.)


Fui a las montañas este mes y subí un KM Vertical cada díaMe on Mortal Combat.
Hice eso para…

1) Documentar la contaminación de arriba con fotos y videos.

2) Mostrar el tipo de compromiso necesario para enfrentar el desafío mas importante: Bajar nuestra propia contaminación y vivir una vida mas sustentable.

3) Disfrutar las montañas,  los amaneceres y atardeceres y presentar que podríamos perder si no nos cuidamos nuestro proprio etorno….

Hoy día estoy muy cansado. 

Corrí 432km y subí 31,471m en total. Cerré el mes con dos pies moretoneados, un sensación rara en mis oídos destapandose por los cambios de presión, y un poto perforado por un cactus…pero lo mas importante es que terminé con un cofre lleno de experiencias compartidas con lo 15 o mas Chilenos que vinieron a compartir este desafío en la cordillera. Gracias por toda su ayuda y motivación.    Ha habido bastante gente interesada en los temas planteados en el desafio. A través de GreenBeanTrails en Facebook desarrollé temas de:

  • Las partículas de la contaminación
  • De dónde viene
  • Información en tiempo real para estar informado cada día del riesgo que se presenta
  • Los efectos para la salud a largo plazo

Sin embargo, también sugerí como nosotros tenemos el poder hacer cambios, y mostrar un compromiso poderoso con nuestro medioambiente a través de:

  • Las iniciativas Chilenas para reducir contaminación del aire y agua
  • La reducción del 50% de nuestra huella carbono nutricional, cuando elegimos una dieta vegetariana
  • Reciclar lo que compramos, usar transporte publico y crear un sociedad que valora un estilo de vida sustentable.

Pronto viene un artículo de Green Bean Trails en la prensa internacional sobre el desfio, pero, por ahora – mientras recupero mi aliento – firmo con esta cita de Alice Walker y desarrollada por el medioambientalista Doug Tompkins para describir su trabajo en Patagonia:

“Cada uno de nosotros deberíamos pagar nuestro arriendo por vivir en este planeta, y, de alguna forma, dejar el planeta en un estado mejor por el esfuerzo.” (Si has disfrutado este desafio, o te sientes motivado por las intenciones, o simplemente quieres mas “Adventure Media” – por favor haz click en Like en Facebook y comparte un link al desafio 31,000m.)

Gracias a Sofia por todo su paciencia este mes con mis problemas comunicando en español!


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Climbing for the Climate / A Commitment to Clean Air

[:en] This week I started I challenge that I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete…

Smog Rising over Santiago

The Background

I’ve been running for 8months now in the mountains surrounding my home in Santiago, Chile. It’s mid winter here and it’s rained only twice since I arrived. The ski fields are dry and my lips are cracking in the thin air up at 1,000m where we live.

Day 4 – Sunrise on the “Cow Loin” Ridge

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Day 6 – A lone carancho framed in snow clouds

Santiago suffers badly from air pollution and is one of the worst capital cities in South America on this index. The colder temperatures of winter presses this contaminated air down into the lowest altitude reaches of the city, where the poorest people live: Their babies, small children and elderly being admitted to hospital each June and July with respiratory related conditions.

The Andes mountains which sweep around the city, blocking the free flow of air, are part of the reason for the contamination. Other problems include the industry allowed in the heart of the city, the insufficient provision of quality public transport, the lack of bike lanes and poor recycling infrastructure.

Day 7 – Smog in Las Condes, Santiago

Day 7 – Smog in Las Condes, Santiago

The government, the President; Michelle Bachelet and the Environmental Minister; Pablo Badenier Martínez have a lot to answer for.

But it doesn’t stop there….There’s an even bigger culprit really.

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Day 9 – Cerro Provincia 2,700m

Day 12 – A volcanic cauldron effect from rising cloud / Se pareció un volcan en el filo de Pochocon (Manquehue atras)

The Individual

The singular acts of individuals, will be the main reason for the reduction in contamination in this city. The energy, effort and commitment involved in my climbing challenge, won’t do anything to change the air quality in Santiago. It does, however, show a parallel to the strength of mind needed to take seriously our commitments and responsibilities with the environment.

Choosing a smaller car, to share a lift to work, to eat just vegetables once a week, to recycle all the shit we buy, to take life slower and arrive by bike – these are the changes that are needed – regardless of whether we believe the man on the other side of the fence is making the same effort. Such proactively is what draws the line between negligible and nothing. You can’t build on nothing but a lot of negligible eventually makes a difference.

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Day 12 – Above the Flats of Javier trying to get a decent shot of the smog

The Challenge

This month I will try to climb 31,000m above the city – 1,000m of elevation gain each day – to draw awareness to the tragic irony in Santiago that we breathe better when we escape into the thin air, and to show the level of effort needed to try and combat such a problem.

So I’m going into the mountains this month: to breathe some better air; to take pictures of the contamination and have a personal stab at making a difference.

Day 18 - Back on top Provincia 2,700m - this time in the snow.

Day 18 – Back on top Provincia 2,700m – this time in the snow.

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Carbon footprint 0 recycling


Follow my progress from the Twitter feed on the home screen or the Facebookpage. Find smog pictures, facts, and info. about we can make changes on a personal level to reducing our waste, cutting our emissions and doing our bit. Share with #nosmog.

Happy Trails. Matt Maynard.[:es]

Hoy dia empezé un desafío para el mes de julio.

Smog subiendo sobre Santiago

Normalmente salgo a correr todos los días en las montañas de Chile – mi pais adoptado. Disfruto la sensación de dejar mi trabajo y mis preocupaciones “reales” por un rato y salir hacia las cumbres y el cielo.

Este invierno, sin embargo, entiendo que el smog esta peor que nunca. Hoy es la décima pre emergencia por maa calidad del aire. El gobierno Chileno impidió a 1,350 industrias funcionar y hay restricciones de auto y de estufas a leña…

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Un carancho solo abajo nubes de nieve

El amanecer en el filo de Loma de la Vaca

…Hasta cuando? Esta media es para una ciudad en plena crisis – no hace nada para mejorar la raiz del problema. El Ministro del medio ambiente; Pablo Badenier Martínez, y la presidenta de la República de Chile; Michelle Bachelet, necesitan tomar la responsabilidad y hacer los cambios necesarios para mejorar la causa del problema con las industrias, el reciclaje y formas de transportare sustentable.

Pero también esta en nuestras manos. Es demasiado fácil quejarse del smog. Pero somos la causa también….

El Smog En Las Condes

El Smog En Las Condes

El desafio

Este mes, voy a subir un KM Vertical cada día por los senderos en las faldas de Santiago. Mi intención esescapar del smog y llamar la atención a la tristeza y grande ironía que respiramos mejor en nuestra ciudad a mas altura – donde hay menos aire.

bird prov 3

Día 9 – Cerro Provincia 2,700m

photo (3) (1)Tu participación

Subir una montaña no es una opción para todos, pero
igual yo espero que este desafío muestre un poco ladeterminación y convicción que necesitamos para realizar cambios duraderos y significativos para combatireste problema que hemos creado. Ojalá te inspire usar un auto más chico, compartir un auto a la pega, dejar de comer carne una ves a la semana, andar en bici, reciclar o salir a pie a buscar tus propias aventuras.


Seria buenísimo si compartes tus propios intentos de bajar la contaminación en nuestra ciudad. Anda a Home page (esquina izquierda) para updates sobre el desafío. Ahi también puedes encontrar un link para subir tus comentarios a Facebook!

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Día 13- Arriba los Llanos de Javier intentando tomar una buena foto del smog

Matt Maynard – GreenBeanTrails