Back in the 1970s, many of us idolized Evel Knievel. He was a rock star, sports hero and folk legend in one. He was both a daredevil and a cool character. Back then, his jumps over buses, fountains and canyons inspired us to launch our bicycles into the air and over puddles, mounds of dirt and hapless friends.
Now, we find new inspiration in our childhood hero.
In 1961 Robert Craig Knievel, long before "Evel" became a household name, hitchhiked through the dead of winter from Butte to our nation's capital to protest the culling of elk in Yellowstone National Park. He lugged the rack of a massive bull elk along as a gift. It dominated the White House office of Mike Manatos, assistant to John F. Kennedy. The administration responded and many elk were saved via implementation of a transplant system.
Half a century later our country and our world face ever more serious environmental crises -- loss of biodiversity, a warming planet, collapsing fisheries, looming food and water shortages for billions of people and the realization that our pollution has reached nearly every corner. Scientists forecast the 2050 Scenario as the convergence of a hotter, dirtier, more overcrowded Earth where nature will have been forgotten by most of the nine billion inhabitants who fight in violent wars for what's left.
Jumping that chasm is the greatest challenge we have ever faced. Waiting until later is foolish at best and disastrous at worst.
Solving these wicked problems will require the most revolutionary of changes in society and technology, rather than incremental steps.
We must be brave, creative and outspoken enough to challenge the status quo in our respective industries, departments and neighborhoods. We must undertake the audacious, impossible and dangerous. We must risk financial, social and physical pain.
In other words, we must be EcoDaredevils.
EcoDaredevils are everywhere. They are musicians, inventors, investors, scientists, activists, engineers, students, artists and entrepreneurs. They are debating, creating, evolving -- sometimes crashing -- and always coming back for more.
Captain Charles Moore and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation team leading the movement to stop plastic pollution in the ocean. Feliciano dos Santos campaigning for clean water in Africa with powerful music. The crew of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society putting themselves between whales and whalers. People like Bill McKibben and 350.org going out front on climate change for decades. In Mexico, WaterKeeper Julio Solis drag racing in Baja fishing villages to raise awareness of the ocean crisis and fights off coastal developers. And Annie Leonard daring to tell The Story of Stuff.
Changing our light bulbs, inflating our tires and bringing our own bags are all important. But let's be clear: it's going to take actions far more thrilling and substantive for us to make it over this canyon.
For some, speaking up boldly about energy efficiency at the office is a risky bet. For others it may be a massive transformation to "green" their household. Others may undertake bolder actions at higher stakes. The point is to do something for the planet that feels risky and daring -- to you.
They say that Evel Knievel broke many, many bones, many times. But he kept on jumping his motorcycle through the air. "A man can fall many times, but he's never a failure unless he refuses to get up," is chiseled on Knievel's headstone. He represented a combination of steely will, toughness, creativity and tenacity that enthralled me as an eight year old and still does.
Look inside yourself and grab a hold of your inner EcoDaredevil. Strap on your helmet, your red, white and blue leathers, and let's go for a ride.
Nominate an EcoDaredevil for our 2009 Award at EcoDaredevil.com.