“It really started as a love affair with hiking. I grew up in New England, outside of Boston, and went up to New Hampshire’s White Mountains pretty much every weekend with family and so on. Eventually ended up working for the Appalachian Mountain Club and running all up and down the mountains in there. And I think the first really sort of serious long-distance thing that I did was the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut Traverse back in, I think 1989.

That really makes me old. It’s about 54 miles and pretty much across the White Mountain National Forest. And it’s much more a speed hike than it was any sort of ultra run. But to put all that together was kind of a big deal at the time and it kind of opened my eyes a little bit to what’s possible.”

This episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri. If you’re active at all, whether you’re running or simply out walking for the day, you’ve probably experienced one of the number one problems that active people have, and that’s chafing. Solpri’s all-new, all-natural anti-chafe balm solves that problem while feeding your skin, the vital nutrients it needs to be healthy. If you’d like to stop chafing once and for all and treat your body right, go to Solpri.com to check out the anti-chafe balm today. And that’s S-O-L-P-R-I.com.

JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is the head of college at Schumacher College in Devon, England. He’s a runner, he’s a lot of other things, but I don’t know that we can quite some of them all up with the credentials. Welcome to the show, Pavel Cenkl.

PAVEL: Yeah. Thanks, Jesse. It’s a real pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me. Looking forward to our conversation.

JESSE: So, I feel like as I’m trying to do the research on you before our conversation, so before every show, I’m looking into like– you have a blog. So, I’m trying to look through that and trying to unpack who you are. And just to be frank, having a very tough time trying to pigeonhole you, I guess, and know quite where to start. So, let’s just start with running because that’s the easy one. You’ve been running I think, for over 30 years now. So, you’ve got a decade on me. How did you get started running? Why has the love affair lasted so long?

PAVEL: Well, a great question. I would like you know, 30 years that’s being generous, I guess. But it makes me sound really old when you say it that way. Yeah. And hopefully, we’ll talk about age at some point because that’s becoming a greater interest of mine as I get older, so thinking about running as an older person, too. But it really started as a love affair with hiking. I grew up in New England, outside of Boston, and went up to New Hampshire’s White Mountains pretty much every weekend with family and so on.

Eventually ended up working for the Appalachian Mountain Club and running all up and down the mountains in there. And I think the first really sort of serious long-distance thing that I did was the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut Traverse back in, I think 1989. That really makes me old.

It’s about 54 miles and pretty much across the White Mountain National Forest. And it’s much more a speed hike than it was any sort of ultra run. But to put all that together was kind of a big deal at the time and it kind of opened my eyes a little bit to what’s possible; that you can go for 20 hours or so straight through the night and so on and what an experience that really is.

I didn’t really sign up for any races or start running really seriously until I got into my late 20s, early 30s even. And then didn’t start racing at any ultras until I think I was about 40. So, really kind of late to the game.

And again, I think it comes really through a long history of just hiking in different places and really experiencing mountains at sort of a faster pace, seeing how far we can go in a day, how many peaks we can do in a day. And then that sort of naturally evolves into, all right, well, let’s see if we can run 150 miles over a couple days, or let’s pick these really kind of obscure trails that not a lot of people do and see if we can run across those in some sort of relative speed. And that really opened up a window for me, starting in about 2013, 2014 when I started this climate run project that you referenced at the beginning.

That really started– It was a really a pivot point for me, in my professional career, in my teaching that I was doing at the time at Sterling College in Vermont. And then thinking about a way that serves my growing love for ultra running and racing and that sort of thing came together. And I was trying to find a way to really do something more meaningful for myself with that ambition and with that Passion. And I have been teaching environmental humanities, I’ve got degrees in English and American literature, and I’ve been teaching environmental writing environmental literature for many, many years. And I started teaching a bit in environmental philosophy as well.

And for me, the philosophy and the running actually really came together when I first started running these long distances across remote landscapes. And then to weave into that issues of climate change and ways that I might be able to leverage conversations about human impact on the environment, using some of these sort of, I guess, more notable runs that I’ve done that I can go out and do and then come back and give a presentation about and have your generative conversations about.

Well, so I went to this place and actually climate change is starkly visible here because of glacial melt and post-glacial isostatic rebound and all sorts of physical attributes as well as the impact of global warming climate change on indigenous communities and in northern Scandinavia, for example.

And then come back and begin to have conversations in the States or in England or wherever, about what–a little bit about what we can do, but also about how we can actually build more resilient relationships with the broader world through doing some of these action activities. Then that can lead to our being able to take care of our environment a bit more proactively. Yeah. So, there’s a lot there.

JESSE: Yeah, a lot to unpack. And that’s one of the things I was trying to unpack was how are you taking the runs, and I don’t mean this in a negative way, but are you doing anything with them? There are people that just go out and do those runs, but they’re not taking the run and the experiencing and trying to use it as a dialog to shape any kind of change.

It’s just a personal experience. It is kind of interesting that you mentioned seeing the impacts of climate change in these particular environments that it’s like, as I don’t know that I could call either a scientist, maybe you, but I don’t know that I’d call myself a scientist but a believer in science for sure. I think, and I’m kind of a mathematician by training. So, I believe the numbers so it’s enough for me to see the numbers and go obviously there’s a trend here that is abnormal.

But I think for the majority of people, it becomes especially pressuring when you can see it when it’s like okay, well we go to this environment and there were glaciers I don’t know, 20 meters high. And now they’re a foot.

PAVEL: Yeah, glaciers are perhaps the most obvious indicator. And so that’s why I was really drawn to those particular landscapes, Iceland, Northern Scandinavia, Svalbard because glacial recession, glacial melt back is a really quantifiable impact of global climate change and warming in that instance.

But I do want to pause just a bit and say that, well, it’s becoming much more visible just about everywhere. And it’s a matter of interpreting that data and that’s where your point about well, you believe in science. I think that there are a lot of people that choose to either ignore it or think about, well, this is a qualitative thing.

For example, here in Devon, we had the wettest winter in some 200 years. It basically rained from the day I arrived in October all the way through to march with very little respite. Lots of flooding all over the region. And then like a switch in March, we had the now sunniest spring in the last 100, 150 years. So, we went from being inundated and flooding to a drought situation pretty much overnight.

And it only just rains substantively the other day for the first time in, I don’t know, three months, ever since lockdown really started. And I mean, you scratch your head up that you say, “Oh, it’s an anomaly”, but you know, it’s a direct impact of climate systems around the world being changed in really dramatic ways.

So, it does drive that point home. But for me to be able to then make the– draw the thread between our experience here in these regions to places like Iceland and Svalbard and Norway. And Sweden is really interesting. Because for me, I look at Iceland for an example, right?

Right when I was doing the research, I researched the areas pretty extensively before going on these runs and find contacts there and talk to glaciologists and biologists, botanists, social scientists, etc. and effectively interview people either along the way or before and after just to create some context and learn a bit more about the landscape.

So, there was a study that came out in 2014, and I can share that with you, at some point when I find the link. But it’s the very first study that actually tied the melting of the glaciers, specifically with anthropogenic climate change. So, they were able to connect the dots in a way that nobody had before. And they published a map in 2014 of places where the land, the Earth’s crust was actually rising as a result of the glaciers receding, right. So, when the glacial recedes, you have this thing called isostatic rebound or post-glacial rebound where the crust in fact springs back.

And for me, that was really fascinating both on [??? 11:23] metaphoric level where you’re talking about the earth rebounding, as you’re running across it, it’s kind of something that you think about as a runner as well through this dynamic movement rebounding across the landscape. As well as there were places where that rebound was pretty dramatic; millimeters or even a couple centimeters over the course of a year.

You can almost if you’re really patient, sort of sit and watch the ground rise. And the fact that that was directly connected to anthropogenic climate change really struck me as being pretty profound. That literally what we do wherever in the world contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, has the impact that it melts many billions of tons of ice per year, and then that the literal crust of the earth is arising as a result of that.

To me to be able to make those threads and connections is really interesting and important. And then that’s been eye-opening for a lot of audiences that I’ve talked to as well. And then to take that a bit further and say, well, so what? Right. This is Iceland, [??? 12:30] island in the North Atlantic.

But you’ll recall back in 2010, they had a volcanic eruption there that actually stopped transatlantic commerce for quite some time because airplanes couldn’t fly because of the particulate matter in the air. That could happen much more frequently with this destabilization of the Earth’s crust. Right? So, again, I’m not a scientist in that respect, but to understand these processes and to recognize the real interconnectedness of the human systems, the economic systems, and the ecological ones; that for me was really an important piece to be able to bring back and to integrate into my teaching and into my presentation.

JESSE: I think kind of the two biggest hurdles in taking that information in approaching the ‘so what question’ to the masses are number one; how do you communicate the impact of a couple centimeters? ‘Cause out of context when you just say it’s a couple centimeters, well in the things that we measure in everyday life, it’s pretty small, you know? So, it’s like, you have to get to that some degree of scale and communicate that in some fashion. But then also, just getting to the point of overcoming both.

Well, overcoming people’s short term memory because we don’t have memories of 100 years ago, or sometimes even a decade ago. It’s hard to be like, well, what was the weather like? So, it’s like, you’ve got to get over that part two and show why it directly impacts this person living in nowhere Tennessee. They just don’t care if there’s like, kind of– I’ll go Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a little flawed, but it’s an okay model. And somebody’s concerned about where am I going to eat today? They’re definitely not super concerned about the climate is changing. It’s like, well, I need food.

PAVEL: Absolutely, absolutely. And to be clear, the couple centimeters of Earth’s crust rising is one metric in a really complex system. And most of the conversations I have around climate change, and these sorts of issues are about the complexity of the system. And that, in fact, that’s the thing we need to focus on. And not so much the individual metrics or indicators, but much more of the connections between nodes between the data sets, right. So, what are the relationships? How do we recognize that we are connected to these things even if it’s you have to jump several points to get there. Just to recognize that yeah, we are part of this much broader socio-ecological system. Right?

There’s a trio of courses that I taught right before I left Sterling College that were in effectively applications of environmental philosophy that really focused on this concept of posthumanism, right? And the idea that, what would the world look like? And how would we talk about it differently if we recognize we weren’t really at the center of everything? And it seems like an obvious thing for the two of us to say, it’s like, yeah, well, of course, we’re– it’s a complicated system.

But if you actually think about that, and model various, like economic systems or educational systems with that in mind, then it dramatically changes everything. Right? And to get people to see that in fact, yeah, it’s one really complicated interwoven, messy, sometimes really, not very pretty web, then yeah, that’s really what I’m hoping that people take away from this. Like, yeah, it’s all a mess, but we’re apart of that mess, it’s not over here, it’s part of us.

JESSE: I think part of the issue in communicating that is almost just our limited ability to understand. I think we can say, pretty definitively, we are the, if not one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, certainly the best tool creators. And so I think, as humans, we hold ourselves a pretty high regard. And I do think– [crosstalk] Do what?

PAVEL: For better or for worse, I think.

JESSE: Right For better or for worse. But because of that, I think that also leaves a blind spot where it’s like, well, right now say we’re beginning to understand these complex systems and trying to break them down and it’ll take some time and teams of people.

And by teams, I mean, hundreds or thousands and gathering data. But it’s like you have this idea of, well, it’s always been this way; our behavior, our way of thinking. So, why would it be any different? And no matter what it changes to, people still seem to settle back into that; this is the way it’s always been.

PAVEL: It hasn’t always been, right. We’ve undergone a massive evolution even if you think about the start of the industrial era, or even before that. It’s this argument that goes on, it’s like when did climate change actually start? And I’m not that interested in identifying a particular date or part of a century or when that began because I think it’s been a long, slow evolution.

And I would say that it’s not so much a matter of going back to anywhere like back to a time before greenhouse gases or some sort of idyllic Jeffersonian agricultural utopia. I don’t think that’s really what we’re looking for either because that’s not possible, right. We can only move forward. So, for me, it’s figuring out– I mean, it’s interesting.

Before I went to Iceland for that first long run I started thinking, well, I want to get some corporate sponsors and think about, well, this is going to be all about helping athletes make better decisions about the products that they use, and maybe we can leverage some changes and some manufacturing processes or some distribution networks or something like that, to lessen the impact that athletes themselves are having on the– And I very quickly realized, I think, through my personal experience, that it was much less about that for me. Those are also important things and absolutely, we need to follow through on being as light as we can.

I mean, it was much more about once you’re out in the midst of nowhere, I mean it’s not nowhere but way up there and have effectively sort of opened yourself up to the world around you in a way that if you’re pushing your body and to such an extent run running 50K or 15 miles or more per day, you’ve opened up a vulnerability to the weather, to the amount of daylight, to your own body and potential injuries, that sort of thing. You really, I feel I’m laying myself bare to that environment.

And in those moments and I can even pinpoint really specific moments where I’ve had this sort of awareness of this happening, you really feel that the boundaries between the self and the more than human world are beginning to blur. And in that moment of vulnerability, I think we can build really serious resilience in our ability to build relationships across that boundary, right.

And so if we think about these really complex systems and as you’re talking about how we get people to care about that, if that’s not the first thing on their mind, I think the first thing on a lot of people’s mind is sort of themselves and their relationship to the world around them. Right?

And so if I can use even these talking about these really complicated things and some vocabulary that people might not immediately get and all these esoteric data sets, it’s really about one person in a landscape sort of reflecting on their relationship with that place and how the physical or the physical exertion or the movement across that landscape helps open up pathways into building more resilient relationships. And I think we can do that anywhere, anytime. It’s just a matter of intention and having the right, sort of the opportunity and you being able to open one’s eyes to those opportunities.

JESSE: You had said and I think I’ve read this on your blog too the phrase of more than human experience. I think I’m saying that right. And that really, even as I read that it just kind of jarred my head. And I mean, I feel like between the two of us, you especially, or probably more than me know the power of words and how certain words are evocative words like with again, without context. When you think about that you’re like, what does that mean? Are we talking about a spiritual plane and your brain or at least my brain tries to go into these explanations.

But it’s like, well, no, it’s just like it’s the world around us that it’s not human. Like all the things that aren’t us, and obviously I’m guilty of this. Even my own brain is like, it’s me, this is my world, this is my show. But I think that’s a great phrase to open a conversation about everything that’s going on because it is so jarring. Like what are you talking about more than human-like? We’re it.

PAVEL: That’s right. It’s that shift of perspective and it’s a pretty deliberate turn of phrase and sometimes I stumble over it because you know, it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. But you know deliberately different from humans in their environment or humans in nature, or even human and non-human because that sets up this binary opposition of here we are on one side and here’s the non-human on the other.

And I think it’s vitally important to think about we are actually part of this more than human network, right? We’re part of this, you know, what many people call the socio-ecological system and network. And realizing that I think is one big step. forward to helping to address issues like climate change, even if they don’t feel immediately tangible.

JESSE: So, so far you started doing climate run, was it 2014, is that what you said?

PAVEL: [??? 23:25] yeah.

JESSE: So, I’m right then. So, what kind of reception have you gotten so far from people?

PAVEL: I think it’s quite positive. Yeah. So, it’s been– it comes in waves, right? Because I went to Iceland then I came back and I gave a lot of presentations there. Based in Vermont, I was invited out as far as Ohio and as far south as North Carolina to give talks to various groups. And then that happened once again after I went on the next trip and then again after the next trip and so on.

And I’ve given talks to really pretty any, you name the type of constituency, whether it’s a small group at a local outdoor shop or it’s a group, there was, I think, three or 400 middle school girls at a private school in Ohio that I talked to about her building personal resilience through athletics.

And that really resonated super well because think about that age and gender and sort of dealing with all sorts of issues of athletics and body image and some communities and building resilience so that worked out really well. It’s just slightly different talk, right, a different conversation.

But always the entry into it is like hey, look at this cool place I went to and you know beautiful pictures and videos and great stories of, you know me almost drowning during a river crossing or falling through the ice over here and all these really cool stories that really grip people. And then that’s the entry into having the conversation you need to have. And so what I hope to do, right, is to continue these for a bit longer.

I’ve begun writing a book, some of it, I think I published a couple of excerpts on the blog. And you know, tentative title is Running North, but that’s probably going to change. I think that’s a bit vague. But really it’s going to get at sort of this interweaving of philosophy, climate change awareness, and running and think about how to tell that story in sort of the best possible way.

But again, it’s not just a story of “Hey, Pavel goes running and I hear these cool stories”, but that those are the entry into Some deeper conversations about some of the issues we’re talking about here.

JESSE: I’m kind of thinking about the dichotomy of we’re talking about trying to get beyond our own egos to see all of the complex systems around us. And again, I mean this in a loving way, but then also the idea that you’re just one guy who has some notion that okay, I’m gonna go make an impact, just me.

So, it’s like both this interesting dichotomy of we need to look beyond ourselves yet, I also have to take it upon myself if nobody else is going to do it to get this conversation started and try to impact people.

PAVEL: Right. And again, I’m one of many people who are doing this kind [??? 26:44] this thing but this sort of thing, right. So, I don’t hold myself up to be any sort of special case. But trying to do my part in a way. But the dichotomy you talk about is really interesting because we have, for better or for worse again, this narrative of the lone explorer going out into the landscape.

And whether it’s going to the north pole or climbing Everest or running a couple hundred miles. That is kind of a cultural Western motif that this is what we do. And so I’m always conscious of that and thinking about well, okay, so am I being a complete hypocrite by coming out here?

And I’ve had some of those conversations, right. People have said in the past, “Well, why is it that you’re taking a flight to Scandinavia to run a couple of miles so you can come back here and then tell us all about climate change? Aren’t you contributing to the problem?” And it’s like well, honestly, we’re all contributing to the problem really by living in the societies that we live in.

And it’s not an excuse, but I think we need to be really conscientious about how we use the resources that we’re using. And whether we’re actually creating some overall benefits for conversation, for society, for sort of helping people recognize the complexity of the situation. And maybe that’s just a way to justify flying out and then and then taking a run.

But at the same time, I think that the sort of relationships that I’ve been able to create or develop by doing these adventure runs, and then the conversations I’ve been able to have once I’ve come back, right I think really demonstrate I think the importance of going out and being able to tell that story and being able to come back and share those experiences.

 

But yeah, I mean, it’s definitely– I’m always aware of that dichotomy and that sort of– that duality of well, yeah should I really be out here doing this in the first place? Aren’t there better things we could be spending our time on? But I think this is my way of participating in these conversations and other people have different ways of doing that.

JESSE: And I think that’s the top thing that we run into. Excuse me. When people are, for lack of a better term I’ll say criticizing you taking a flight to go somewhere to come back to talk about climate change, is that you know, I guess a couple of things. But just one, are you really gonna get in a canoe and paddle your way like it just doesn’t make it doesn’t make sense logistically number one, but also the idea that if you’ve– it’s like if you’ve ever done anything that’s counter to what would be held is like the most virtuous, golden, perfect person then your idea is discounted.

It’s like okay, it’s okay and I think it’s good to be critical of people and say are you consistent with your message? Are you living what you’re preaching? But at the same time, there has to be some kind of give and take where you have just the realization, the idea that like, okay, like we’re not going to tell Pavel to become an ultra-distance swimmer and swim across the pond and then go on a hike.

It’s nonsensical and it bothers me in this context, but in many contexts when people try to just say, well, there’s this one thing wrong. So, therefore, the whole premise is bunk, you know what I mean. So, it’s kind of interesting to see how you dealt with that because that is a tough thing to get around. Since I think it’s a pervasive idea right now.

PAVEL: Right. And I think across the spectrum, those are different conversations that are happening in our society currently, actually. I mean, there’s some pretty tough conversations happening currently. And you know, I read something just yesterday or the day before about well recognize that most people are participating in these conversations on in their own way.

You may not be out doing activity X, you may not be doing Y, but maybe you’re doing Z, and that’s perfectly great. But just to recognize there are multiple approaches to any challenge, to any problem. I think the important part is that we’re all moving in the right direction, in a positive way.

JESSE: I’m trying to [??? 31:35] this, see if I get the name of this right. I think that’s right. So, in this conversation and all the conversations going on right now, I’m a big fan of stand up. I don’t know how much comedy you watch, but I love Dave Chappelle and in one of his specials, he was speaking about the ‘me too’ movement at the time.

But the idea that he brought up seems prescient to me in any conversation where people may seem hypocritical. And it was basically, I’m paraphrasing, I’m sure I’ll butcher it, but that If you want to break a system, currently like in the US and in protests around the world, we’re talking about racism. In this case, we’re talking about the systems of human, I’ll say economics and its impact on the climate.

In any system that you want to break, you’re going to have imperfect allies; people that maybe they’ve done something that belongs to that system that’s having that negative impact. But they’re here now and they’re trying to figure out how to help. So, if you skewer them and you say if you’ve ever done anything wrong, you can’t participate then you’re most likely not going to break that system.

You have to embrace that the people that want to help maybe apart of that system and you actually need them to break the system because you need to have all the information of how the system works before you can change it.

PAVEL: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I think, again, coming back to what we’ve been talking about, recognizing how complex that system is. Necessarily gives people a little bit of leeway that yeah, I would love to be able to do X. No, but I think we need to shift our conversation a little bit more before we’re even able to do that, right. Yeah.

JESSE: This is a question, we’re still on topic. I do want to ask what do you think– How much responsibility do is each person have as a runner or just as a general person in terms of conservation in effecting change? Because like I said, there’s this dichotomy of, I have responsibility, yet I’m only one person.

PAVEL: Yep. Yeah, what’s interesting so, I’ve been having some conversations about this lately, the difference between– Maybe it’s semantics but for me, it’s important because words are what I do. Between the word sustainability, which everybody seems to know what that means, although [??? 34:38] more complex again, and the word regenerative which it’s an up and coming term.

There are a lot of [??? 34:37] for regenerative study and regenerative agriculture is a big thing. And sort of the definition of those two words are really important. Sustainable, to me, and it’s not just my definition but really is about how can we minimize our impact on the more than human world, right as we go about our daily business?

And how can we sustain what we’re doing for the longest possible period without creating circumstances that don’t allow that to happen? Right. So, how can we basically keep doing what we’re doing, but do it in such a way that minimizes our impact? And I think that’s really important, right? Because it makes us sort of look at things like well, we need more electric vehicles or we need more public transportation or we need to take fewer flights and we need to do this and we need to do that, less dependence on fossil fuels and so on.

Regenerative on the other hand, is I think an evolution of that. It basically from my perspective talks about that same relationship but instead of minimizing our impact, how can everything that we do have a positive impact, a net loss impact on the more than human the world and help to actually regenerate and build a greater resilient relationship with everything that’s around us. And that for me, those are like night and day. Right? Can we just try to maintain the status quo with some minor changes? You know we switch everything to wind power, everything to solar power, but we don’t change our overall lifestyle and impact that we have; that’s more sustainability, which is an important step.

I think a step beyond that which is really effective in smaller-scale enterprises is to give back as much as possible in everything that you do, right? So, again, it’s that idea of shifting the sense of well, humans are not at the center of the conversation or they should not always be. Then how does that change things? If we think of the whole complexity of the system as being at the center of the conversation. All right. I think that changes your decision making in a massive way.

JESSE: Well, I feel like there’s two approaches basically. You’re describing the approach where we’re basically trying to baby steps. Where it’s like okay, we’re doing negative impact, let’s figure out how to stop impacting things negatively, maintain the status quo, and then the next step is okay, how do we get the trend line start going back up in a positive direction. But then there’s the whole other way of thinking about it where it’s like we’re having a negative impact; how do we just suddenly switch directions and go to positive instead of hitting that bottom and staying there? And that’s the ideal situation.

But I think you have a lot of inertia, economic, mental, cultural, all that kind of stuff to overcome and that’s part of why it’s almost necessary that on our own, we have that sustainability kind of step. Unless by outside forces we are forced to change like with all the stay at home orders I think that like that’s an outside force we had no control over, I’ll say that relatively that’s a whole other company. But just– it forces a lot of employers to say, okay, well, maybe we don’t need everybody to come in the office. And then that’s where you can make a sharp direction the other way where it’s, we don’t need all these cars on the road, every single day versus let’s go to electric vehicles.

PAVEL: That’s right. I think you’re right that we need an evolution sort of transformative change through sustainability as a stepping stone to potentially a regenerative relationship and so on. And it’s interesting to think about the COVID-19 situation that has situation global pandemic crisis that’s put people in these positions of pausing a lot of this activity that contributes to greenhouse gases or contributes to climate change or contributes to what we would think of as environmentally negative impacts. And there are a lot of comments and I’m an administrator in higher education.

So, there are a lot of conversations about higher education and how this is the thing that’s going to change the future of higher education and I absolutely hope so. And on my own, working with my colleagues and contacts, we’re trying to do just that, right to make some shifts in the future of higher education to do more offsite learning, potentially so international students don’t necessarily need to travel to sort of rethink the way that we’re doing residential education, etc, etc.

So, I think there’s a lot of great opportunity there to really rethink pedagogy as well. And those same conversations among ecologists and environmentalists saying this is that moment that hopefully will make this seismic shift, but I worry on all of those counts, right. As lockdown start to lessen around the world, we are very quickly going back to exactly the same habits that we were, you know, shopping.

For example, just like after 9/11, I pointed out to someone the other day that George Bush She was quick to say in response to this, we need to continue our lives as usual and I think he was quoted as you know, we need to go out and spend money and help the economy move forward and effectively go shopping.

There’s a lot of that right now as well. People have been at home for weeks and weeks without the opportunity to go out and buy the things they may need. But also to queue up and go to IKEA for that thing that they may not need but you know, now they have the opportunity to go get it. So, is it a reversion or a continuation of business as usual? Or is there in fact going to be something that has shifted? It’s like well, all right, we managed to do without those things for this amount of time.

That’s made me think well, look at the money we may have saved or the job that we may no longer have so we can’t afford to do this. Then maybe that has a knock-on effect and is positive. But these are tricky paths to walk because there are a lot of pressures from sides for, sure.

JESSE: I kind of think of– I wish it was as easy as this is an opportunity for all of humanity to get together and make that sharp direction towards correction and regeneration. But although I’m typically an optimist, I’m a little pessimistic in this situation where I don’t think it’s that easy. And because like what I mentioned earlier, basically, people have short term memory.

And think about this is one year, I live in Kansas City so four months ago the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. That seems like a lifetime ago. Three months ago, everybody was obsessed with Tiger King. Nobody cares anymore. We’re not even talking in a matter of years, we’re just talking, months, how quickly things shift. And it seems like a long time. But it’s really not, especially when we’re talking about global changes.

So, I think of now more as an important data point in the argument for change moving forward, especially like when we saw the reduction in emissions in China when everything was shut down, factories were shut down, and you’re seeing like, clearing of air, and those kinds of things. Where it’s like when people can make the argument, okay, humans aren’t actually having an impact, this is just normal, like climate changes.

Then we could say, okay, well, let’s look at this two to three month period of time where we weren’t doing those things and even in this time, this is what happened. It still won’t convince everybody because there’s always going to be holdouts for better or for worse. But that’s kind of what I see this situation has, in this context, whether I’m right or wrong. But that’s how I see it is like another data point, another tool in the tool belt to argue for. We do need to continue to make change, and here’s definitive proof.

PAVEL: That’s right. I think it adds a voice to the overall conversation. And it gives us a lot of, I think, really interesting visuals and narratives of things that have happened; animals walking through streets in places they hadn’t been seen before on a very sort of local scale, as well as I think on a more global one. It’d be interesting to see some sort of broader and I haven’t, and maybe it’s out there already, but some sort of broader analysis of greenhouse gas emissions globally as a result of the COVID crisis. But it’ll be interesting to look back on as well. Yeah.

JESSE: I feel like somebody’s collecting that data. And I think I talked to Ian about this. I don’t remember if I’d said it at the beginning of our recorded conversation, but Ian Bolliger from Episode 50 is who referred me to speak with Pavel also about climate change. I feel like I talked to Ian about this kind of similar situation where right at the beginning of stay at home order where I think was when I spoke with Ian.

And I think we talked about like somebody’s collecting that data. So, it may not be immediately available, but I think we will see, I would hope, at least a few different kinds of institutions present that data in different ways and show, hey, this impact happened here and that impact happened there.

And Ian obviously is more on the economic side trying to figure out what economic impact happens with climate change. So, if you want to watch that episode, go back to Episode 50. Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what happens long term. And I think for me and probably for you, please correct me if I’m wrong. It yes, even when things happen fast on say human timeline fast. So, say we could get this done in a decade, a decade is relatively fast. So, we could turn everything around and make things regenerative. A decade still seems like a long time from like a human perspective, even though it’s really a very short term, very short round.

PAVEL: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, I mean you think back to all of the technology that we take for granted on a daily basis. iPhones came out in whatever it was, 2007. And for me, they’ve been here forever. And somebody who’s almost 50 now, that wasn’t that long ago, right. So, yeah, I think there are some real challenges. And that’s come up a few times in our conversation about sort of people’s memory and people’s interpretation of the reality around them really is what it is, right.

And so that’s why I think it’s really important to continue having these conversations and start to maybe again, I’m justifying my own passions. But important to continue doing this kind of thing and writing about it and sharing the experience and saying, look yeah, we might have had this blip in 2020, when we look back at this, where this happened that was positive, this happened that was positive because of this great tragedy, which is, I think, it’s a really interesting conversation in and of itself.

But we’re continuing to see the sort of exacerbated effects of greenhouse gas emissions of global warming of glacial melt, of this and of that. And they continue to have an even greater knock on effects on things like fishery populations. Fish migrating north or south because of the changing of the salinity or the temperature of the ocean water. The systems are so complicated that I think people who even are directly impacted by some of the things may not recognize that that’s an impact of climate change. And so I think we need to continue having these conversations. Absolutely.

JESSE: Yeah. So, as we’re running short on time, there’s a question I’m asking everybody this year. And I think it will be particularly interesting to hear from you, given what you do. So, I’m asking everybody this year, what do you think the purpose of sport is?

PAVEL: That’s interesting. Well, I mean, for me, I think the way that I have intentionally integrated my sport, with the teaching that I do, with the writing and etc., a quick plug for the college where I worked, the Schumacher College, right? We run a series of master’s programs. And we’ve recently just proposed one to start in 2021 on movement, mind, and ecology, which really gets at sort of the complete synergy of everything we’ve talked about today.

Where it will use movements, whatever that is, whether it’s rock climbing, or running, or swimming, or dance as a way to connect with a broader ecological system. Right. So, for me the role of sport I mean, there’s so many roles at plays, right.

My son who’s 15 is on the Nordic ski team, and sport plays a really essential and important role for him. But for me, and for the work that I do, it’s about creating an opening, creating a connection with the more than human world. And doesn’t matter what that sport is, whether you’re walking for a mile down the road because it’s your daily exercise during quarantine, you can connect with a natural landscape that way that you probably wouldn’t have thought to do otherwise.

Similarly, if you go cycle for a couple hundred miles or go run an ultra or something, you are connecting in a particular way with that particular landscape. So, for me, that’s essentially the purpose of sport is to reconnect us with the more than human world as well as with ourselves.

JESSE: It’s the first I’ve gotten that answer. So, that’s what I was excited to ask you that because I was like you’re definitely gonna have a unique perspective on what this is. Pavel, if people want to find you keep up with climate run, everything that’s going on with you, where can they find you?

PAVEL: So, just www.ClimateRun.org. I tend to keep that fairly updated and they’re descriptions of all the runs that I’ve done over the last few years as well as some about plans that I have for the future. So, yeah.

JESSE: Sounds good. Thanks for spending time with me today.

PAVEL: Absolutely. Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure.

JESSE: Take care.