This year, Roz Savage, environmental campaigner and our own Climate Presenter, became the first woman to row solo across “the big three” (the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans). A holder of multiple world records, Roz’s ultimate goal is to help people learn about environmental issues and inspire change through rowing.
A self-proclaimed “unlikely adventurer,” Roz worked as a management consultant for 11 years before becoming an ocean rower. She has traveled over 15,000 miles, taken 5 million oar strokes, and spent 500 days on the ocean since her first trip in 2005. While at sea, she frequently chronicled her adventures on her blog via satellite phone.
In addition to being a presenter, Roz is a United Nations Climate Hero and an Athlete Ambassador for 350.org. Recently, she answered a few of our questions regarding her achievement — and hinted that she has a new adventure up her sleeve.
What has this accomplishment meant to you?
Seven years ago, I set out to row the world’s “big three” oceans — the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian. After having spent 11 years of my adult life working in an office, I had woken up to the fact that I was doing a job I didn’t like to buy stuff I didn’t need. Around that same time, I had an environmental epiphany, realizing that if we carry on treating the Earth as we do now, we are going to face a very bleak future. So I decided to take a new life course, rowing across oceans and using my adventures as a way to raise consciousness and inspire action on environmental issues.
Now that I have achieved what I set out to do on the oceans, I don’t plan to do any more rowing adventures, but I very much intend to carry on adventuring and campaigning. We live in interesting and challenging times, and I want to be very much involved in leading a movement towards a better future. There is important work to be done, and I want to do what I can to help.
What were some of the greatest challenges you faced?
My crossing of the Indian Ocean this year was really tough. Very, very long — 154 days alone at sea — and some seriously feisty weather. There was a particularly intense day when my boat had capsized during the previous night. It self-rights after a capsize, but it’s still not a fun experience, as it causes general chaos, damage and stress.
But the aspect I found the most challenging was the constant issues with the electrical system due to a rusty component in a solar panel regulator. I get nervous about working with electricity, but I really had no choice. I needed power to drive my watermaker, and electricians are few and far between in the middle of the ocean. It was a source of quiet pride to me that I managed to nurse the system along and keep it running until the end of the voyage.
When everything seems hard and I start wondering what I am doing out there, I just have to remind myself what I am fighting for, and it all seems worthwhile.
Do you think your achievement can help teach people about climate change?
My message is that every action counts. Many people may think that they are too small to make a difference, but it really does all add up. It has taken me around 5 million oar strokes to row 15,000 miles. One stroke doesn’t get me very far, but you take a million tiny actions and add them all together, and you can really start to achieve something significant.
What advice do you have for those who want to become involved in environmental activism?
I believe that there are a lot of people out there who have an idea for something they would like to do to make the world a better place. And I would like to do what I can to encourage and support them. More information on this initiative will emerge in the near future on my “Making a Difference” blog.
Meanwhile, just do something! We need to tackle this problem every way we can. Do the right things, and get the conversation going with your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Awareness is the first step on the way to action.
What’s next for you?
Although I am now hanging up my oars in favor of land-based activities, I plan to continue using adventure as a way to promote a conscious and sustainable lifestyle. In 2012 I’ll be tying off the loose ends of the rowing chapter of my life by finishing the book and making a film, for which I am currently raising funds. Then in 2013 I’ll be back with a new adventure, details to be announced in due course. Whatever happens next, I know it’s going to be exciting!