Writer and presenter: Pip Stewart
Production: The Royal Geographical Society with IBG
Reviewer: Margarita Shivarova
Pip Stewart (Phillippa Stewart), is a journalist, explorer, and adventure seeker, and delivers a talk that is emotional, informative and inspiring. She looks back at her expeditions in Brazil, Peru, and Guyana bringing her personal observations and learning curves into focus, and painting a picture that feels both raw and beautiful.
The talk describes in detail Pip’s adventures over the past two years which have inspired her to use the power of media, especially social networks, to share the beauty of stepping out of your comfort zone, as well as to raise awareness of widely recognisable environmental issues. Interestingly, at the beginning, she introduces herself by saying what she is not – she is not a survivalist or an academic. This rightly sets expectations and the mood of the talk to be relaxed and supported by easy-to-understand content. She draws us in, talking about her experiences of interactions with indigenous communities, and facing illegal logging and gold mining first hand, as well as the physical and emotional highs and lows. The implications of environmental impacts along the chain of responsibility are clearly explained, emphasising the link between source, supply and consumption, as well as economic development and environmental degradation.
The second part appears to be somewhat richer in content, perhaps because Pip brings out the huge personal struggles she went through during the world’s first trip along the Essequibo River. The video footage from this expedition is perhaps the most influential throughout the talk, as it documents her rough beginning and the presence of trepidation following the dangers exposed to in the jungle, as well as her experience of fighting a flesh-eating parasite after coming back. Even in these moments, where she shows some rather unpleasant photos of trench foot, she keeps a sense of self-irony and brings up the spirit through her thought-provoking poems. Taking a step back to look at the picture from a different angle and evaluate the role of PR, the needed sponsorship and media interpretation is what balances out and brings the objectivity and critical thinking, often voiced as a necessity when discussing sustainability issues.
Overall, the pace and style of presenting sits well within the theme and expectations that Pip sets at the beginning of the talk. The flow of the general reflection and sub-stories is disturbed in a few places, including at the end of the first part with somewhat sporadic mentioning of gold mining, deforestation and then again gold mining. Yet on the positive side, bringing attention to these problems a few times throughout the production, certainly impresses just how widely practiced such destructive ways of making a living are. The power of attaching a personal story from the communities she visits, enhances not only the emotional effect but also the credibility of her documentation. As a consumer, this production makes you feel far more connected to these issues, instead of the old adage of being ‘out of sight, out of mind’, and if anything, it suceeds at raising awareness.
Reviewed on 24 October 2018 | Image: Contributed