Lands of Change
Update, June 5, 2017. Winner announced below.
In May I announced, “Lands of Change”, a fully sponsored adventure through the Icelandic Highlands with me this August for one individual passionate about nature and wildlife. Applications were open from May 15 – 31.
After reading through each and every application I’m beyond impressed by the state of mind that my followers possess. Among all of the submissions, I read how nature has shaped their lives and motivated them in so many ways to be better people and to act as leaders in their communities to protect our planet.
From 30 countries, ranging from 13-51 years of age, students, doctors, mechanics, and many other walks of life shared their thoughts on environmental threats that we, as a planet of countless species, face. Even more impressive is that so many of the applicants are doing their best to combat pressing ecological issues. Local and global… From simply avoiding plastic use, practicing veganism, or just riding a bike instead of driving, to establishing worldwide environmental protection trusts, volunteering in third world countries to save elephants, or designing renewable energy technologies that will shape our future economies. Large or small… all efforts count. With so many passionate people who applied it was very difficult for me to choose one single individual.
After a great deal of deliberation, I finally decided to invite someone who stood out to me as a true patriot for the welfare of nature. Through her background in scientific writing, sincere and expressive love for nature, and potential to aid in bringing awareness to ecological issues that exist in Iceland, Claudia Geib was a clear choice in the end.
BASED IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, CLAUDIA IS A SCIENCE JOURNALIST AND EDITOR. HER WORK FOCUSES ON MARINE SCIENCE, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND WILDLIFE, PARTICULARLY REGARDING HOW HUMANS INTERACT WITH THE WORLD AROUND THEM.
Response to the invitation:
“I’m excited to join Donal in this upcoming adventure through the Icelandic Highlands, and to experience the immense beauty of this ancient landscape firsthand. As a science journalist, I seek to motivate people to connect with wildlife, to appreciate our planet, and to protect fragile ecosystems– and so I am eager to report on the environmental issues the highlands face, and what will be needed to save these lands for generations to come.”
Select Application Responses
I found Claudia’s responses to the application essay questions very sincere and interesting and wanted to also share them here.
Why is nature and the wilderness important to you personally?
I grew up on Long Island, the suburban island that stretches east of New York City, where I learned to love nature by way of water. There isn’t much nature left on Long Island, but most of what is left lies along its abundance of coastline. Splashing through tide pools while my dad fished, I learned to love being outdoors. It was there that I learned to seek connections: that fish used seaweed to hide, that crabs stole shells from each other, that birds fed off big fish which fed off little fish which fed off algae, which in turn created oxygen and fed the rest of the planet. When I learned that the ocean was the place all life came from, it made so much sense it was like I had always known it. Being outside, I found a place where my restless body and mind– always bouncing from one topic to another in class, only content indoors when focused on a book — could both be at peace. Yet as I grew older, I learned why there was so little nature left in the place I grew up. While Long Island might be a place where the ocean is always close at hand, it is also a place where few people seem to understand or appreciate it– where everyone takes seafood for granted but has little interest in supporting local fishermen, where strip malls are of more interest than local ecosystems, where the return of humpback whales to the Long Island Sound was shocking because people never realized they lived there in the first place. My realization that there are so many people who are never exposed to nature, and so never learn to become stewards of it, set me on my path towards becoming a science writer– where I seek to teach people about the wild places on our earth. This is why wilderness has become important to me personally. It’s not just because it is a place where I feel at home, but also because I truly believe that if more people were exposed to nature, and were connected with wild places, they would feel more compelled to protect our planet and the other creatures that live on it.
Tell me about an ecological concern (global or local) that you’re passionate about… Have you done anything to combat the environmental issue? For example, do you live near the ocean and consistently see plastic and trash washed up on the shore?
Unsurprisingly given my upbringing, ocean health has become a huge concern of mine, both locally and globally. Locally, I’ve sought to address this problem by working and volunteering with a few great organizations in my new home city of Boston. In 2015 I worked as a coordinator with COASTSWEEP, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, where I organized beach cleanups all along the shores of Massachusetts. This included my own scuba cleanup in Rockport, where we removed over 200 pounds of trash from the water and beach. (If you search the Mass.gov blog, you’ll find some of my blog posts, including one I wrote about this experience!) I currently volunteer with the New England Aquarium, where I work to support the research efforts of the amazing scientists there working on everything from tiny phytoplankton and coral reef health to protecting the North Atlantic right whale, the most endangered whale in our local waters. Finally, a more intangible way that I seek to protect ocean health is through my writing. I consistently cover ocean health issues in my journalistic work, from pollution to ocean acidification to overfishing and wildlife issues, seeking to raise awareness amongst my readers. It is my goal to bring these stories to people in a way that is approachable, exciting and engaging, and in doing so motivate them to act in their daily life to protect nature.
Have you ever had an experience in the past in which you were so moved by nature that it altered your life in some way. If so, please describe.
The experience in nature that has most moved me was when I spent 5 weeks aboard a tall sailing ship in New Zealand, through a college scholarship that allowed me to study abroad with SEA Semester. While aboard, I was acting as a student, scientist and an active crew member, which meant my entire life was tied to the whims of the ocean. I’ve never felt more linked to the environment that has always fascinated me. When the water was calm, I learned the shapes, habits and names of birds that hovered above the blue, watched dolphins surf the wave of our bow, and pulled creatures from the ocean in our net tows I’d only seen in magazines: by-the-wind sailors and man-of-war jellyfish, luminescent plankton and baby squid, and larvae of crab and octopus that became familiar aliens I categorized through a microscope. When it was stormy, my body learned to adjust to the ocean’s heave and to laugh through her black moods, and to steer a ship by following the ancient pull of magnetic north. I saw whales breaching and magnificent sunsets, but I also saw the impact of mankind on this environment: microplastics in our daily net tows and algal blooms caused by runoff from shore. This experience was more than just a moment of awe: it was transformative, wedding me to the ocean and linking me firsthand to both her wonders and her perils.
Vast deserts of black volcanic ash flecked by fields of neon green moss leading up to looming glacier capped mountains, colossal canyon systems, and countless jagged rock formations. Budding outward from these glacial plateaus are scores of vibrant braided rivers meandering as stark veins across the ashlands. Craters riddle the interior where remanence of past eruptions is prevalent throughout in the form new and ancient lava flows, steam vents, and massive boulders strewn across the barren moonscape. A canvas of ever-changing nature.
I believe wholeheartedly that experiencing raw nature, such as that which is found in the ultimate remoteness of the Icelandic Highlands can fundamentally alter your perception of the world. When a landscape does more than just move you, or goes beyond simply inspiring, but changes your thinking entirely, now that’s something truly exceptional.
When I first visited Iceland back in 2015 I didn’t know what to expect, but what I found reformed my path in life so significantly that I can’t imagine where I’d be otherwise. The Highlands changed me. That’s why I want to give someone who might never have the opportunity a chance to embark on a life-changing journey of their own through the Icelandic Highlands with me as their guide… fully sponsored.
Yes… A free trip to Iceland… Including everything from the flights to the food, for one individual from anywhere in the world. 5-days of mentorship in photography, visual storytelling, and business/life advice during a journey through the remarkable Central Highlands of Iceland.
Starting today I’ll be accepting applications until May 31st. On June 5th, I’ll announce the invitee based on answers to a series of short essay questions that I’ve included in the application below.
Dates: August 24 – 29, 2017
Day 1 (August 24): On August 24, I’ll pick you up from the international airport in Keflavík and we’ll head straight to the Volcano Huts in the Southern Highland Valley of Þórsmörk where we’ll spend the first 24-hours exploring.
Day 2-4 (25-28): We’ll depart Þórsmörk and continue via mountain roads deeper into the Central Highlands. We’ll pass by glaciers, lava fields, braided rivers, volcanic craters, and more.
Day 5 (August 29): Drop-off at the international airport in Keflavík.
Accommodations will be cabins and camping. All required camping equipment will be provided including sleeping bag, tent, etc.
Meals will be provided when available at restaurants, but otherwise, I will cook when necessary, for instance when we camp or stay at remote cabins within the center of Iceland. I’m a great cook, I promise. I can also accommodate for specialty food requirements.
I’ll share the specific details of the entire trip itinerary with the invitee upon acceptance, but for now I want to keep most of the locations we’ll visit a surprise.
Mainly, I’m looking for an individual who cares deeply about nature, wildlife conservation, and the protection of our planets most fragile and vulnerable ecological assets. Absolutely anyone is welcome and encouraged to apply. You must just have passion.
The only thing I’ll ask in return of the person who I invite is that they document their experience in the form of a photo-essay, blog, video blog, or some other form of mixed visual media to share with the world.
The goal of such documentation would be to inspire others to seek out similar life experiences and to express the importance of protecting places like the Central Highlands. One of the key aspects of the trip is to bring additional awareness to a movement called Hálendið, which aims to form a Central Highland National Park that will forever safeguard the entire region for future generations to enjoy.
Applications close on May 31st, 2017 and the invitee will be announced on June 5th, 2017.
Several crucial companies that have graciously contributed towards the adventure.
Very Special Thank You to:
Geysir Car Rental for sponsoring the Land Rover Defender, which I’ll be using for the journey.
Volcano Huts in Þórsmörk, who is graciously sponsoring the accommodations for first night of our journey in the Highlands.
Cintamani for providing outdoor clothing to the invitee so that they’re fully prepared to take on the unpredictable weather conditions of the Central Highlands.
Gangleri Outfitters for providing tenting & camping equipment for the duration of the entire trip.