Eco-Warrior Profile: Johan Nilson Dares to Explore the Unexpected
“To explore is to dare. To dare is to do the unexpected and to step outside of one’s Comfort Zone.”
Over the past 20 years, “adventure activist” Johan Ernst Nilson has become the ultimate “yes” man. He’s trekked 20,000 miles from the North to the South Pole, biked from Stockholm to the Sahara Desert, climbed all Seven Summits, and even flown a boat over Europe.
In the adrenaline off-season, Johan somehow finds time for philanthropic work. Half of his days are now dedicated to causes related to nature and children. He holds regular lectures on climate-related issues and even leads a long-term project called “The Water Foundation,” which helps people in poor countries gain access to clean water. The foundation has already contributed 100 million liters to Red Cross water projects in Africa and has raised 6 million dollars for charity.
We were able to get a moment with the explorer extraordinaire to pick his brain on climate change and understand his vision for the future of our planet.
Tell us about yourself and what sparked your interest in fighting climate change.
The first time I heard about climate change, or “global warming” as it was called back then, was in 1996. I was hired by the Swedish government to produce a documentary about this problem. I was like “what problem?”. I didn’t understand what they were talking about until I was sent to Antarctica to investigate the situation and interview the professors in glaciology. I produced the documentary but in 1997, nobody was interested in hearing about it.
Luckily Al Gore did another film 10 years later with a bigger impact.
What aspect of climate change do you think isn’t talked about enough?
People sometimes tell me that they don’t care about climate change since they are not going to Antarctica or (the) North Pole.
For some reason, climate change is related to the polar regions and of course, that’s where we can see fast changes and impact but it’s not there humans will be affected by climate change.
The weather patterns are changing with sea levels rising, storms and hurricanes. It’s all an effect in the long Dominoes of nature. Everything we do affects the future and we are now facing a big change. To be able to make a global change, we must change ourselves.
If you had a million dollars to donate to a cause, which would it be?
A million dollar will not take us anywhere. I raise millions of dollars myself every year to different charities and organizations and I see small results. Maybe with billions you can start to see a change. But then again, every dollar counts and it’s important not to give up.
So where would I put a billion dollars?
Will it be AIDS research, poverty, to fight wars, Diabetes, human trafficking, climate change etc?
I would put the money into three areas;
With those three cornerstones we can change the world.
Education because we must teach the coming generations how to take care about our planet.
Information about facts and instructions how to solve problems. People must have the correct information to be able to make a change
Communication because we must learn from our mistakes, share scientific facts between continents and talk to each other.
How is climate change approached in your country? The good, the bad and the ugly …
In Sweden we are ahead of many other countries but that doesn’t matter as long as we don’t work together around the planet. China, Russia, Brazil, India and USA must follow our visions otherwise it doesn’t matter what a small country like Sweden does.
Are you working on a specific project that you’d like the world to know about?
I want people to start with themselves.
Ask yourself; what can I do to make this world a better place
My mission is to open up people’s eyes
Where do you see the most hope?
In our children. Even though they are only 25% of the world’s population. They are 100% of our future
Keep up with Johan and his adventures around the globe at www.johanernst.com/.