Winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and the Lonely Planet Adventure Travel Book of the Year. My first book, Kings of the Yukon, is out now, published by Penguin in the UK, Little, Brown in the US and by Random House in Canada. Read more about it, and order it, here.
"These villagers are just eating the leftovers from the table. Those people who are above, in power, they are the ones who did this."
The Mulanje Cedar is Malawi's national tree, and it is practically extinct. Endemic to the Mulanje Massif, just 7 mature trees remain on the mountain. Last summer I spent several weeks on Mulanje with a group of ex-prisoners devising a play about the cedar. Neither government nor NGOs have been able to prevent the destruction of this most beautiful of trees. Touring their play around the country they aimed to provoke discussion about how to save the cedar, in one last attempt to make a difference before it is too late.
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Published in DW, April 2019
The expedition and performance were supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society.
“If our local police are not catching criminals, they don’t tell us to run the police ourselves,” he says. “So why’s our land system failing? Why had it led to this situation where the only option we have is to own this land ourselves?”
Scotland has the highest concentration of private land ownership in the developed world. Two men own more than 2% of the country between the,. Now Ulva has become the latest in a string of Scottish communities to raise enough money to buy back their land and to kick their landlord out. I speak to those living in some of those communities to see what life is like now, and what it means for the future of land reform.
Published in the Huffington Post, August 2018
"If Yup’ik people do not fish for King Salmon, the King Salmon spirit will be offended and it will not return to the river"
In 2013, with salmon numbers crashing across Alaska for reasons no one could explain, a fishing ban was placed on King Salmon in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta. 23 Alaskan natives defied the ban, and in their court case they claimed that their faith, centred upon a subsistence life style, had given them no other choice. Can such traditional beliefs be upheld in a rapidly modernising world?
Published in The Atlantic, June 2014
"Climate change, I realise, is already here. Not the drama of it, not yet, but in the mundane."
In 2014, the residents of Fairbourne, Wales, discovered that they had been listed for managed retreat, and that in 40 years the council would cease to defend their town from rising sea levels. The subsequent insecurity has taken its toll on the community, with house prices crashing and businesses collapsing. I went to see how the future effects of climate change are having an impact now on peoples' daily lives.
Published in Granta, February 2016
"We are the frontline. We are the red line. And we will protect our blood lines."
In December, in the wake of the Paris attacks, I covered the protest at the 21st UN Climate Talks. Despite the city being under a state of emergency, and all demonstrations banned, there were coalitions forming under a banner of climate justice that seemed to be shaping mainstream dialogue as never before. The official Agreement, hailed as historic, lacked teeth, but there is much to be inspired by in the movement that will take the fight forward from here.
Published in Lacuna, February 2016
“'In a country where you haven't got a wilderness, you have to play God.'"
In 2014 I spent a month walking 200 miles across Scotland, from the Alladale estate, where Paul Lister hopes to reintroduce wolves, to Killiecrankie, where the last wolf in Britain was killed in 1680. On the way I spoke to gamekeepers, shepherds, biologists and hikers about how they would feel about once again living alongside this most notorious of animals.
Published in the BBC News Magazine, 14th October 2015
For a much more in depth account of the walk, Lacuna have run it over three parts, starting here...
And I have spoken about this journey further, and looked at other ideas behind rewilding, with James Taylor of 21st Century Permaculture.
Hosted by 21st Century Permaculture, September 2014
Photo by James Morgan
“Until human nature changes for the worse,” Chapman Milling wrote in 1938, “rides are going to be given to decent-looking people who ask for them”
Everyone will tell you that it's impossible to thumb a ride these days, but that has never been my experience. And whilst a hitchhiker is now a rare sight out on the roads, the car share websites are booming. What is the state of hitchhiking in Britain these days, and if it's vanishing, does it matter? I try and find some answers, with the help of a robot that hitchhiked across Canada.
Published in The Land, January 2015
"At the root is that we don't accept - we all want to stay young, be young, perform young, do young. Talking about sex isn't about trying to get us to do that. It's about getting us to accept where we are, and celebrate where we are."
Lois Weaver's alter ego, Tammy WhyNot, is on a mission to find out why it is that we seem unable to discuss sex and age. Spending time in care homes, getting residents on stage as her backing singers, she has developed a show both raucous and intimate that explores one of the last sexual taboos. Following Lois through rehearsals and up to performance, I discuss with her the difficult issues that her work raises.
Published in Lacuna, September 2015
Read more about Tammy in 'The Taboo of Sex in Care Homes for Older People'
Published in BBC News Magazine, June 2015
Image by Christa Holka
"Everyone is just waiting for the million-dollar picture: of the polar bear covered in oil."
In 1989 the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska. At the time it was the biggest oil spill in US waters. Sailing through the Sound 25 years later the environment seems to have recovered, but the more I question the people that live there, the more I can see that its legacy lives on. As Alaska pushes to industrialise further, I explore the potential repercussions such projects could have on some of America's last untouched landscapes.
Published in Arena Magazine No 134, February-March 2015
“a noble animal in a large glass case”
The last wolf in Britain was shot by Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel in Killicrankie gorge, in 1680. But what happened to it? There is a record of it being sold, stuffed, in 1818, when the London Museum was auctioned off. As I delved into the Natural History Museum archives in search of it, I uncovered a story that tells us much about our attitude to this most maligned of animals.
Published in The Guardian, July 2014
"People who are suffering are getting organised and acting. People who are not suffering are not acting the way that they should act."
For more than forty years, Rajagopal has worked tirelessly as a nonviolent activist in his native India, campaigning for justice for the landless in a country that is home to one third of the world's poor. But these are not distant issues. Rajagopal strongly believes that real change can only come about those when who are not suffering on a daily basis need to take a stand alongside those who are.
Published by Lacuna, January 2015
"As I fly towards Point Hope, Alaska, I have Sarah Palin’s line turning over in my head, who, when asked to comment on her expertise in foreign policy during the 2008 presidential campaign, reportedly said that she could see Russia from her house. If she lived in Point Hope, I thought, she might actually have been right"
Far north of the Arctic Circle, 500 miles from the nearest city, Point Hope is America's oldest settlement. It is home to 700 Inuit, who are both modern Americans and the holders of centuries-old traditions, hunting bowhead whales from seal skin canoes. During the summer's whaling festival I explored the impacts whale oil has had on their past, and the impacts crude oil could have on their future.
Published in Lacuna, September 2014
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares"
In 2010 I walked 3,500 miles from England to Istanbul, a journey that took me 8 months. On the way I was taken in and looked after by strangers with a kindness I could never have imagined before I set out. This talk discusses whether it is possible to draw any lessons from this experience, and whether it is possible to maintain an open and hospitable attitude towards strangers.
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Given at TEDxLSE, March 2012
More on this story at Narratively - 'Europe, the Very Very Long Way'
Published on Narratively, March 2015
I have written further about my experiences on the walk in Beyond Flying. Fourteen authors from around the world share their stories about how they came to the conclusion that reducing their air travel was necessary to avoid playing their part in climate change, and how they changed values and attitudes to businesses and personal travel. My chapter discusses my motivations for my journey on foot to Istanbul.
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Published by Green Books
“A walk is a medicine. Prison is not a medicine”
For thirty years Belgian organisation Oikoten has been offering young offenders locked in institutions the possibility of freedom if they walk from Belgium to Santiago de Compostela, a journey of four months. Compared to incarceration, the results for preventing reoffending are remarkable. Talking to those have done it and those that have mentored them along the way, I explore the reasons for its success.
Published in New Internationalist, July 2012
“We would have the environment as an adversary that we can pit ourselves against, something that can, with enough wile, be mastered, and when mastered we can pry from it what we will. Be that a life lesson, a spiritual experience, a barrel of deep sea oil, the summit of a mountain, a twenty ounce nugget. Choose your poison”
In 1992 Chris McCandless walked into Alaska's backcountry and perished several months later. In 2013 I walked into Alaska's backcountry, curious as to why this young man's story had become so divisive for Alaskans. What is it that the wilderness come to represent for those of us living in the urbanised west?
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Published in Dark Mountain Book 6, October 2014