‘Over here, if people know who I am, they’re more likely to say, “Oh, you’re the Plastiki guy.” ’ In 2010, with a crew of fellow adventurers and eco-activists, de Rothschild launched a boat made out of 12,500 recycled plastic bottles and sailed it 8,000 miles across the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney.
‘There are 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of our oceans, which is crazy, because so much of it comes from single-use plastic water bottles and throwaway plastic shopping bags. ‘There’s obviously going to be some of that, and you expect it,’ he says.
‘The only thing that gets me is when people tell me I should just enjoy my money and not do anything except go to parties,’ he says.
He personally found the Green movement smug, pious and off-putting.
They were always criticising people for eating meat, or driving cars, or not wearing hemp clothing. I’ve become a pessimistic optimist, or the other way around.
He went on to study at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, and that is where he became interested in environmental issues. It created curriculum content for schools about polar ecosystems, and the threats they were facing, and it used the concept of polar adventure to get the schoolchildren excited.
Meanwhile he was winning triathlons, sky-diving, paragliding, bungee jumping. In 2006 de Rothschild and a team made a crossing of the Arctic Ocean from Russia to Canada via the North Pole, and two million people, mostly children, followed their progress on an interactive website strewn with environmental information.What people needed instead was excitement, inspiration, adventure stories and solutions, and common sense would take care of the rest of it – surely we wouldn’t keep ordering champagne and nuts on a plane that was crashing. It’s the weight of information as much as anything. But I still have a strong streak of optimism because the solutions are so obvious. They’re within our grasp.’ Next door to his converted garage is an upstairs room with a big table where de Rothschild and his team of collaborators drink gourmet coffee, tap away on their laptops, and bounce ideas around.I read all the reports and the news is always getting worse. There is a lot of upbeat, can-do, West Coast energy in the room, and at least a dozen projects on the go.Earth is the plane and nature is the increasingly erratic pilot.‘The engine’s on fire, smoke is coming in the cabin, and we’re going, “Ding dong, can I have some more champagne and nuts?Thirty-five years old, tall, slim, bearded and fashionably unkempt, he gets around Venice on a skateboard and surfs nearly every morning.