Bear Grylls: mobilising young people to save the planet

Bear Grylls has reintroduced audiences worldwide to the outdoors, including teaching survival skills to Zac Efron, Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson, former President Barack Obama, and most recently, even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His latest challenge is enabling a new generation to navigate a perilous future

You don’t have to look far to see first-hand the devastation that’s happening. It’s so important to get outdoors so we can all forge a stronger relationship with the natural world. That’s the reason US President Obama wanted to go on the journey with me. He said, “I’ve seen all the science, I understand that, but I want to see it.” Ditto Prime Minister Modi of India, who after I took him on a journey to the rainforest announced his vision to ban one use plastic in India. These moments are the seeds of change. Because when we stand up close and we see first hand the effects of climate change, then that’s the best classroom.

“I believe in the power of young people to change the world.” We’re seeing more and more acts, both collectively and individually, that have generated awareness around important issues like climate change, human rights and gender equality to have a positive impact on society. When we all work together and speak out about the change we want to see in this world then organisations can be an unstoppable force for good.”

‘A week in the field is worth a year in the classroom’, as Baden Powell the founder of Scouting said. Spending time outdoors is always powerful as a way to feel connected with nature and empowered for life. I see those positive effects on people every day. The outdoors develops friendships and tenacity and a never give up spirit. If we learn these things through adventures and besides good friends, we become so much more resilient and effective in life.

The responsibility is on us to adapt to the natural world, not the other way around. While people and animals are incredibly resilient, it’s clear that we need to change our behaviours and habits if we are going to protect the only planet we have for future generations to enjoy.

If my travels have shown me one thing it’s just how precious this planet is and how fundamental nature is to humanity. Anything that young people are doing to raise awareness about the urgency of the climate crisis is important. Greta Thunberg and the Friday for Future Movement are yet another powerful example of how young people are standing up for what they believe in and challenging us all to get serious about sustainability of the planet.

My belief in the power of Scouting to unite and empower started as a young Cub Scout nervous of my first adventure away from home, and that belief has continued to grow throughout my adult life. It instils leadership skills, a love for nature and the outdoors and it teaches young people how to help others in need. It’s an organisation made up of millions of unsung volunteer heroes, all helping young people in their local communities to live boldly and with eyes open to friendship and adventure.

Scouts have already delivered more than 1.2 billion hours of community services towards the Goals. Together with the Scout Movement we launched Scouts for the Sustainable Development Goals last year in New York at the UN headquarters with the aim of making it the world’s largest youth contribution. Through this global initiative we are currently mobilizing 50 million young people around the world to learn more about how to improve the sustainability of our planet and take action in their communities. That’s a tribute to the spirit of Scouts around the world who want to make the world a better place. If we keep this up we will be on track to be contributing a total of 4 billion hours of community service through millions of local actions by 2030.

It’s not surprising that the goals that I feel most passionate about are related to the environment… but I also see so clearly the importance of helping the world’s most vulnerable gain a fuller education - it is through education that we can unite and protect our planet.

It’s more important than ever to equip young people with 21st century skills that can help them reach their full potential. The world today is changing rapidly with so many advances in technology, science and business. Young people are the key to our future and it’s activities like Scouting that are helping them adapt and thrive to meet the many diverse opportunities and challenges of the modern world.

Bear Grylls is an adventurer and Chief Ambassador of World Scouting

Tomorrow: Gary White, Matt Damon and Jennifer Schorsch, Co-Founders and President of Water.org

  • The 2020 Super Year series is a collaboration between freuds, Goals House and Raconteur