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The Power of Exploration to Lift Our Spirits and Open Our Hearts

Terry Garcia & Chris Rainier's new book offers hope for future generations.

Key points

  • "The Future of Exploration" shows the importance of establishing the mindset for exploring the unknown.
  • Exploration is no longer about finding new lands—it must be about finding solutions to global problems. 
  • They show how exploration is not only essential for learning about our planet but also for our well-being.
  • Because we can’t protect what we don’t understand, discovery and exploration are more important than ever. 
Earth Aware/with permission.
Source: Earth Aware/with permission.

I love being outside and exploring new and well-known landscapes. It makes me feel good and energetic and for those reasons and some others, I was thrilled to learn about Terry Garcia's and Chris Rainer's—two impeccably credentialed explorers—exciting new book The Future of Exploration: Discovering the Uncharted Frontiers of Science, Technology, and Human Potential with a foreword by Richard Branson.1

Here's what they had to say about establishing the mindset for discovering, understanding, and appreciating the unknown, for improving our own well-being, and for maintaining hope for future generations. Simply put, it's important for people to rewild themselves because getting to know who and what are "out there" can help save them.2

Marc Bekoff: Why did you assemble The Future of Exploration?

Terry Garcia: We each come to this with our own unique perspective. My reasons are the product of running the National Geographic enterprise for 17 years. I loved my work and wanted to share the excitement and wonder of exploration with readers. But it's more than that. At a recent event I was asked “Haven’t we discovered everything on ‘terra firma’ and all that’s left is exploration of outer space”? Certainly, space exploration is an exciting and fast-developing endeavor, but there is so much more to discover and learn about our own planet. It is often said, we know more about the dark side of the moon than the ocean. That may be a bit of an exaggeration but not by much. The ocean covers 75% of the Earth and yet we have explored only a tiny fraction, perhaps 5-10 %. When it comes to the ocean and so many other aspects of our world, we don’t know what we don’t know!

Sulav Loktam/Pexels.
Source: Sulav Loktam/Pexels.

Overall, I hope readers come away with an appreciation for explorers and exploration. After all, at a time when so much about our planet is changing, and because we can’t manage or protect what we don’t know about or understand, the work of discovery and exploration is more important than ever.

Chris Rainier: As Terry mentions we both come to the topic of exploration with different backgrounds. I have spent my life as an explorer and specifically a photographer determined to document the last of the world's pristine wilderness areas, and traditional Indigenous cultures. We assume in this world of ultra-technology, the internet, satellites and a world population of 8 billion and counting—that there is nothing left to discover—no wild places left or any traditional cultures that have not been swept away by modernity.

But this could not be further from the truth; those types of magical places still exist! There are places beyond where the trail ends where wildlife still lives free, the natural landscape is untouched, and there are traditional cultures that pulse to the ancient ways of being. I came together with Terry on this project because I felt it important to highlight a unique set of explorers that are still discovering the wild and evocative places left on our planet.

MB: How did you choose your contributors?

TG/CR: With but a few exceptions, we have worked with each of the contributors over the years. Many of them are well known leaders in their respective fields.1 Others are early career scientists and explorers who we believe represent the next generation of leaders in their fields. One of the most exciting developments we have witnessed has been the changing face of exploration. Today’s explorers come from more diverse backgrounds, geographies, ethnicities and disciplines. They bring with them different perspectives and approaches that will undoubtedly lead to a richer understanding of our planet. As ecologist Paula Kahumbu notes, “True understanding demands a capacity to view a situation from multiple perspectives; human and nonhuman; global and local; and worldviews informed by those of Western science and by traditional knowledge.”

They also argue for “exploration with purpose.” Exploration is no longer about finding new lands, rather it must be about finding solutions to global problems. We are confident if given the resources these explorers will do more than bear witness to what is happening; they will help write a new story for our planet.

MB: Who do you hope to reach with your interesting and important book?

TG/CR: This book is intended for a general audience. As is the case with all authors, we hope the book is a best seller! But not for the usual reasons. At the beginning of this journey we agreed with the publisher that whatever profits are generated from the sale of books will be given in the form of grants to early career explorers. From experience, we know how difficult it is for these individuals to secure funding for their work. If given the means, who knows what they might find or what we might learn.

MB: What are some of the main topics you consider?

TG/CR: The book is intentionally broad, because exploration by its nature is anything that pushes the boundaries of knowledge. Topics include archaeology, conservation biology, history, geography, oceanography, education, architecture, ecology, ethics, space travel and planetary science, genetics, paleoanthropology and paleontology. Also, we discovered several strong themes running through everybody’s essays that are helping define the future of exploration. The use of technology, the importance of diversity and different perspectives of the way we look at the world, and a sense of urgency to all of this. Exploration today is striving to find the solutions to the problems that face us living on planet earth in the 21st Century.

Finally, a thread that connects all of the essays is “hope”. As Jane Goodall notes, “We can save our world; we have the know-how…Let us use the gift of our lives to make this a better world. Find your reasons for hope and share them with those around you. Together we can. Together we will… save the world.”

Source: Marc Bekoff
Studying Adélie penguins at the rookery at Cape Crozier, Antarctica.
Source: Marc Bekoff

This book really moved me. On a personal note, reading it brought back many life-changing memories of past adventures and explorations into the unknown. When I did research at Cape Crozier, Antarctica years ago, I was in awe every single waking moment—when I was walking around and among the nests in the Adélie penguin rookery, when I was sitting and watching these amazing birds try to survive alongside the South Polar skuas who liked to dine on them and their chicks, and while trekking down to the Ross Sea—often on a well-used ice and snow trail we called "penguin highway" because these incredibly tough birds would toboggan down it at breakneck speeds—and watching leopard seals and killer whales who also fancied the penguins. The incredible sense of wonder at being in places where few or no humans had ever been has lasted for many decades. Watching the penguins and their homes being destroyed is devastating to my heart and soul.


In conversation with Terry Garcia and Chris Rainier. Garcia was the former Executive Vice President and Chief Science and Exploration Officer for National Geographic and currently the President of Exploration Ventures, which provides advice to global clients in science, technology, art, media, education, hospitality, social, and nonprofit industries across private and public sectors. Rainier is a documentary photographer and National Geographic Explorer who is highly respected for his documentation of endangered cultures and traditional languages around the globe. He also is a fellow at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

1) In this wide-ranging and important book, first-hand accounts of adventure and discovery are offered from world-renowned public figures, including Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, Bob Ballard, Richard Branson, Louise Leakey, Zahi Hawass, Yvon Chouinard, Paula Kahumbu, Kris Tompkins, Kakenya Ntaiya, Wade Davis, Nemonte Nenquimo, Carolyn Porco, Krithi Karanth, Nainoa Thompson, Wasfia Nazreen, Samuel Ramsey, Sven Lindblad, Lee Berger, and more.

2) For more about the field of conservation psychology—"the scientific study of the reciprocal relationships between humans and the rest of nature, with the goal of encouraging conservation of the natural world"—click here.

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