Some years ago, the 29-year-old British explorer David de Rothschild endured that universal male ritual of telling his father what he wanted to do with his life.
It could have been potentially awkward because 1) his father is Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, former captain of the British branch of the fabled family banking empire, and 2) David wanted to save the world rather than buy and sell it. "I started in natural medicine and for a while my dad was like, 'You're a naturist?'" de Rothschild recalls. "And I'm like, 'No, no, I'm a naturopath. Naturists get naked and run around the woods. I'm sure that's kind of fun, but, um, no.'"
Sure, with his shoulder-length hair, trustafarian beard, and faded Converse sneakers, de Rothschild could be mistaken for one of those patchouli-scented dudes praying for a Phish reunion tour. But as he explains his grand designs over breakfast at San Francisco's Clift Hotel, it's clear that exploring the globe is only the first step in his quest to improve it. Not content to simply brave the Arctic Ocean, be the youngest Brit to reach both poles, and set a speed record for traversing the Greenland ice cap, de Rothschild has added a green twist: He started Adventure Ecology, an organization that shares his expeditions with kids and tweens on the Web to spread environmental activism. The idea is that they'll tell their friends, teachers, and parents. Call it trickle-up eco-nomics.