Triple round-the-world yachtsman, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Conrad Humphreys claims that the natural environment can be highly addictive. “Personally, I can testify to an almost insatiable appetite for spending time on the ocean,” he writes in his blog.
“Is this desire innate?”, he asks. “It’s possible, given that my mum spent almost every daylight hour on or next to a beach (she worked night duty as a nurse to make it possible). It’s certain that my earliest connection to the sea came from living a stone’s throw away from Exmouth seafront in Devon. While some of my friends spent their time satisfying their craving for video arcade games on the seafront, my fascination for what lay beyond the shoreline started to consume every waking hour.
“I’ve no doubt that some of this addiction came from playing competitive sport from an early age, as many athletes will testify. The physiological, and psychological, changes that stem from a heightened state of arousal during sport are crucial for motivating certain behaviours, like mobility (the flight or fight response) and emotional response.
Humphreys remarks that for some athletes, it’s this intimate relationship with nature that helps produce remarkable performances. “Take pentathlete Heather Fell,” he says, “whose inspired performance at the Beijing Olympics surprised many after a lacklustre pre-games period. Heather rekindled her focus by returning to Dartmoor National Park to train, and found the emotional resilience to achieve an incredible silver medal in the modern pentathlon.”
It’s the emotional connection between sport and the environment that inspired Conrad to found the Blue Project and to create the Ecover Blue Mile, a mass-participation event designed to connect people with the water all around us – our blue environment.
According to Tony Juniper, former director of Friends of the Earth: “One priority that should be at the top of the national curriculum would be to have a Natural History GCSE as a compulsory subject for school children”.
“If there is one single legacy to build on from London 2012, I’d stress that everyone has the legal right to do sport in a clean and healthy environment,” says Humphreys.