Inspiring stories of Earth Heroes
24th Nov 19

Inspiring stories of Earth Heroes

Adventurer, explorer and author LILY DYU hopes that her new book, EARTH HEROES, will help inspire a new generation of young influences and and environmental activists!

In Earth Heroes, discover some of the inspirational people who are helping to change how we use Earth's resources and to support developing communities, from schoolgirl Greta Thunberg's campaign for school strikes to highlight climate change, to architect Mohammed Rezwan's project to build floating schools to help children in Bangladesh continue at school during the floods.

We asked LILY DYU to tell us more about her exploring and her writing:

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your own life of adventuring?

A: If you'd known me as a child, I'd be the last person you'd expect to become a mountain runner and outdoor junkie. My parents had a Chinese takeaway and I often worked there after school. The outdoors was an alien place to me and not somewhere they ever took us to.

But one day at university, I laced up my trainers and jogged my first mile. That run changed my life. Over the last 20 years I have run, hiked and biked all around the world. At the heart of all my adventures, big and small, is my love for the natural world and a desire to spend time in nature.

Q: Why did you decide to write about today's unsung heroes and adventurers?

A: I'm innately curious about people and love to hear about their lives, what drives them and the experiences that have shaped them. I've been inspired by so many people and I thought that children would love to learn about these people too.

I interviewed as many of the subjects as I could, to capture the authenticity of their tale. For Earth Heroes it was a chance to shine a light on some amazing activists from around the world and also explore a range of environmental issues.

Q: How did you find your Earth Heroes and where did you go to research them?

A: I had 20 environmental topics and for each I wanted to tell the story of an inspirational activist, with diverse voices from around the globe. With my editors we created a long list and eventually managed to whittle it down. The book includes well-known names, such as Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough, and many more that people may not have heard of before.

The research was intense and involved books, internet, films, radio and podcasts and completely immersing myself in their lives. In some cases I interviewed them which was wonderful and really helped me to get to the heart of their incredible stories. In other cases I had to imagine what it was like to be in their shoes.

Q: What were you looking for in each of these Earth Heroes' stories?

A: I was looking for the human story behind their achievements - their character, motivation, hopes, dreams, challenges and setbacks. I hope this inspires and empowers readers themselves to take action on issues they care about, whether that's alone or collectively. I also wanted readers to walk in the Earth Heroes' shoes, to help create empathy and understanding about how the climate and ecological crisis is affecting people differently around the globe.

Q: Do you have a stand-out Earth Hero?

A: All of the Earth Heroes are inspiring, but a story that moved me very deeply was Mohammed Rezwan and his floating schools in Bangladesh. Speaking to him brought to life the issue of climate justice in a visceral way, that is the fact that those most affected by climate change are the poorest countries who have not caused the problem.

All life on the planet is interconnected yet how often do we think about how our lifestyles - how we travel, shop and consume - negatively impacts others around the globe? Bangladesh is often called 'Ground Zero of Climate Change' and stands to lose up to 20% of its land under water. Rezwan is a brilliant and humble architect who has dedicated his life to helping his communities adapt to a catastrophe not of their making.

Q: Did writing this book give you hope - or make you more anxious about the planet's future?

A: Both. Researching the book showed me fully the human impacts and threats to life on Earth and the scale of the challenge to turn things around. It will take a change of hearts and minds of many people in rich nations to live differently and also enormous political will.

But I also learned that when they want to, our leaders can act with great urgency to bring about societal change, for example the New Deal - a series of public work projects and reforms implemented in the US to recover from the Great Depression. I also saw how many people are working at grass roots on these issues - there are Earth Heroes all around us.

Who knew that a shy Swedish girl's lone protest could spark a global protest of millions of adults and children? And what could we do if we try?

Q: How have your own life adventures changed how you see the world?

A: Through spending a lot of time outdoors, here and overseas, I've witnessed the impact humanity has had on the planet - whether it's retreating glaciers in the Alps making decades-old climbing routes too dangerous to attempt, the shrinking habitats of our wildlife, or beach tidelines covered in plastic.

Over the years, my relationship with the natural world has grown to be one of the most important things in my life and is at the heart of much of my writing.

Through my travels I have also seen people living in extremes of wealth and poverty which gives me a wider perspective and a realisation that my life could have just as easily been one of poverty and hardship too. This gives me a responsibility to use the opportunities I have been given to work on issues I care about.

Q: What has been your favourite adventure to date and what are you planning next?

A: My biggest adventure was the Manaslu Mountain Trail race in 2013 - a stage race over eight days running around Manaslu, Nepal, the eighth highest mountain in the world.

It was the toughest thing I've ever done, both mentally and physically, but an unforgettable journey on sky-high Himalayan trails through fascinating Hindu and Buddhist villages. It really did feel like a place where Heaven and Earth meet. Best of all I met wonderful people, both the local Nepalese and fellow runners. On a personal level, the experience was the catalyst for changes in my life and career on my return home.

I love going fastpacking (multi-day running) and I've even written a guidebook to this form of adventure-running. In 2019, I've spent far too long at my desk but in 2020 I'm planning to fastpack the Monte Rosa Circuit in Italy and Switzerland, staying at mountain huts along the way.

Q: If you could do one thing to help change the world, what would it be?

A: I'd send our world leaders into space (without the associated carbon footprint, obviously) so that they could look down on our beautiful blue planet. There they'd see world without borders - a miraculous swirl of land, oceans and clouds - and our planet's fragility and vulnerability with its paper-thin shell of atmosphere nurturing all life. Perhaps then they would understand the interconnectedness of life on Earth and realise the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis.

Q: What is the most positive message you would want children to take from your books?

A: From Earth Heroes the message I want readers to take away is: "You are not alone. Everyone is needed. All our actions count." As Indian conservationist and tiger defender Bittu Sahgal says when asked what we can do to protect the planet, "Be who you are and do what you do best... when many of us do a little bit, a lot gets done."

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