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Earth is the plane and nature is the increasingly erratic pilot.‘The engine’s on fire, smoke is coming in the cabin, and we’re going, “Ding dong, can I have some more champagne and nuts?He personally found the Green movement smug, pious and off-putting.
De Rothschild had used his own money to set up Adventure Ecology, but his expeditions are fully funded by sponsors. You get held over into next year’s marketing cycle.’ By the time the Plastiki set sail, most commentators, nautical experts and local seafarers were predicting a swift and humiliating disaster – there was doubt if it would ever make it out of San Francisco Bay.
‘Brands bring in a huge base of their existing consumers, and it’s great to shift consciousness in companies like Nike and Hewlett-Packard, and get them thinking about environmental issues. The perception of looming disaster was a great boon to publicity, but de Rothschild and his crew of five were also genuinely worried that a boat made of plastic bottles held together with cashew-nut glue might break apart in the swells of the mighty Pacific.
‘I was anxious most of the time at sea,’ de Rothschild says.
‘And I felt slightly removed from the essence of the adventure, because I was Skyping with journalists all the time, talking about what we were doing, as we were doing it.
‘Over here, if people know who I am, they’re more likely to say, “Oh, you’re the Plastiki guy.” ’ In 2010, with a crew of fellow adventurers and eco-activists, de Rothschild launched a boat made out of 12,500 recycled plastic bottles and sailed it 8,000 miles across the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney.
He named the boat Plastiki, in homage to Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki, and the purpose of the voyage was to draw attention to the horrendous, mind-boggling quantity of plastic rubbish floating in the world’s oceans and killing a million seabirds a year.
Er, the Wi-Fi on my seat doesn’t seem to be working.” We don’t pay attention to the signs and warnings. I’d rather be in a howling blizzard than sitting comfortably in front of the TV, although I like watching TV.’ As a teenager, he became obsessed with riding horses, and was soon the top-ranked showjumper on Britain’s junior event team. We had all this interest in our expedition, and I started thinking, what if we could use that to get kids thinking about climate change and the melting polar ice?
We think nature is out there somewhere, and we don’t feel connected to it.’ David is the youngest of three children born to the financier Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and his American wife, Victoria, and as far back as he can remember, he was always happiest doing something energetic outdoors. Then he focused on his education, graduating from Harrow, and getting a degree from Oxford Brookes in political science and information systems. ’ When he got back to London, de Rothschild founded a company called Adventure Ecology.
For most of his adult life David de Rothschild has worked tirelessly as an environmental activist, hurled himself into extreme adventures, and chafed against the label ‘banking heir’.
One reason why he’s living in a converted garage here in Venice, California, is because people treat him more as an autonomous individual and less as the scion of Europe’s most powerful banking dynasty.