Friends of the Lake District’s Kirby Lecture was held at Kendal Town Hall on Friday. Guest speaker was Windermere-based Paul Rose - Arctic explorer, Patron of the Cumbrian conservation charity and Ambassador of the Great Cumbrian Litter Pick.

Paul was fresh from a litter pick with Friends of the Lake District held earlier that day and questioned what makes us care so much about the Lake District landscape to do things like go out on a wet and windy day to collect rubbish! He pondered what motivates us to care about the planet. His own introduction to the great outdoors and inspiration for his career as an expedition leader was a school trip to the Brecon Beacons. Not much of a school enthusiast before then, his geography teacher gave him the opportunity to experience adventure and he has never looked back.

Tales of polar bear near-misses and evocative images from the many expeditions he has been on kept the audience captivated. His most recent work as expedition leader with National Geographic on the Pristine Seas Project brought up examples of how climate change has affected the polar ice caps and plastic pollution has affected our oceans. Paul has witnessed first-hand the devastation our throw-away society has had on the world’s oceans.

He remains optimistic however, and explained how, through his work with world-class scientific research and state of the art technology, he still believes that we can make a difference. He also believes in the power of the next generation of eco warriors and how the tenacity of the Greta Thunberg generation fills him with hope for the future of the planet.

His talk included clips from his National Geographic work and also his recent BBC TV series The Lakes and showed him equally at home on top of a Lake District fell at sunrise as he is camped on an ice field in the Arctic.

A lively set of questions from the audience included a heartfelt plea for advice on who to contact to take action on the environmental issues he had covered. Paul’s advice: start with your immediate sphere of influence for most impact. His optimism was questioned in the face of so much evidence showing the state of our planet but he remained resolute in his optimism – and he might just have passed some of that on to his appreciative Cumbrian audience.

Following the talk, Douglas Chalmers, Chief Executive of Friends of the Lake District said, “Friends of the Lake District works to protect and enhance the Lake District and Cumbrian landscape, and Paul’s vivid presentation helped to demonstrate how we are all part of the environment. Almost everything we do can have an effect on our surroundings, and being aware of this gives us opportunities to minimise the damage we do, and also to have a positive impact.

“Ambassadors like Paul Rose are hugely important as they can engage and inspire, so that more of us can make a positive difference.”