A lightbulb moment: The story behind Wejugo
Wejugo was started as a passion project, built out of a desire to protect the world’s wild places for future generations of outdoor adventurers. In reality though the vision for Wejugo started much earlier and reflects the deep personal beliefs culminated over years of first hand experience in the pursuit of adventure. It’s a story as much about how a founder’s journey landed here as it is about creating a company that is striving to create a more sustainable world through the combination of ethics, data, technology and community participation.
Meet Mike, a passionate adventurer, biologist and environmental advocate. Mike started his career as a biologist studying in a remote part of North East Brazil. What Mike learnt there became a guiding principle in how he wanted to live his life and how he could contribute more effectively in the preservation of wilderness areas.
Hi Mike, what did you learn during your time spent in Brazil?
I learnt that whilst scientific study is highly important in developing our understanding of the natural world, it is only as valuable as its application to realistic and tangible outcomes. In Brazil I was studying the biodiversity of the natural world with the intent to provide evidence and data to support its continued preservation. What I found, however, was that any scientific recommendations for conservation had limited practical use in the real world without community participation and shared ownership of the outcomes. A sense of joint responsibility is required else science can be seen as lacking in empathy and can be unrelatable on a human level.
When we study the natural world without human context we can become very disconnected from it. Whether we like it or not we cannot ignore the fact that humans form a significant part of our environment. We impact it, but at the same time are dependent upon it and can play a pivotal role in its conservation. It’s part of our nature. True conservation and sustainability is about striking a fair balance between what we take out vs what we give back.
That’s an interesting insight, what does this mean for outdoor adventure?
The outdoor community is similar in many ways. Our activities impact the environment and we are in turn impacted by decisions about our use of the environment made by governments on our behalf. Without community involvement it doesn’t always deliver the best outcome for either party.
I believe that in order for us to ensure the long-term protection of wild areas we need to be able to place a relatable human value on them, not just in environmental terms, but in financial and societal terms. We need to take a more holistic viewpoint on the value of the environment, how it relates to us individually and how community participation can be highly effective in long-term sustainable management strategies.
I strongly believe that the most valued things in life are the ones we have a close personal connection to. I believe that when we are actively engaging in outdoor activities we build a lasting relationship with our natural areas. And in turn we will be more willing to ensure their preservation as their disappearance affects us personally and in a deeply human way.
I believe that when we talk about the preservation of wilderness areas in scientific terms – global warming, biodiversity loss, deforestation it reinforces our disconnection with the world as we cannot relate to the scale of the issue. However, when we speak about our own personal experiences in nature such as packrafting down untamed rivers in new zealand and climbing epic peaks in remote mountain ranges it humanises those environments and inspires us to preserve them. Imagining a world without those experiences is far more relatable. So by encouraging communities to participate in outdoor recreation we will indirectly ensure that they play a stake in preserving the future of our wild places, as we in turn directly benefit from them.
So how does this relate to what you’re building with Wejugo?
We are fortunate in having such beautiful natural landscapes that we can all enjoy and benefit from. If we go into wild areas and reap the rewards, then we owe it to our natural world to behave responsibly and protect it for the next generation. That should be our charter for a sustainable future.
The world is a complex place and we all impact our environment in different ways. It’s impossible to achieve 100% sustainability for every situation. Anyone who’s ever tried to climb a mountain will tell you that sometimes the top may never be reached, but it’s participating in the ascent that’s the most rewarding.
The outdoors is a great teacher. You will have challenges along the way, you won’t always get to your destination in the way in which you planned to, but if you’re committed, you’ll make it and the views from the top are amazing. With experience you’ll learn that breaking big challenges into small steps is a more achievable way of succeeding.
That’s what we’re trying to achieve with Wejugo; providing simple steps and trip planning best practice for more sustainable adventure from our community of highly experienced outdoor leaders. This is packaged into a platform for adventure planning and trip preparation, a companion app for safety management and notifying relevant parties of your whereabouts and activities and rich content containing suggested itineraries and epic adventures. Built for the adventurers by adventurers. The platform uses Leave No Trace principles as a framework for impact minimisation and provides our community with all the tools they’d need for planning their next adventure.
So how can we play our part?
Our vision is to create an outdoor adventure community that shares a common set of values around sustainability and responsibility. Wejugo provides the tools and information to enjoy the outdoors more safely and responsibly and we ask back that the community uses those tools and sustainability principles in actions they take when enjoying the outdoors. By becoming part of that community and adopting the sustainability principles you will make a real difference to the preservation of the wild places you enjoy when outdoors.
We are also encouraging businesses that benefit from promoting outdoor destinations and wild areas to adopt those same principles and in-turn encourage participants in adventure tourism to behave in safe, ethical and responsible ways.
Similarly we offer our community the option to voluntarily share information about their outdoor activities so that it can be used to effectively monitor environmental impacts caused by our communities actions. Our hope is that land managers will be able to implement more sustainable approaches that we will ultimately benefit from. This open and transparent way of sharing data will prevent policies being made that directly impact the outdoor community and our enjoyment of nature simply because the facts were not there to support the policies.
In a wrap, what is your hope for Wejugo in the future?
We live in a really strange world at the moment. It feels like we’re at a pivotal moment in history where we have the opportunity to take a step back and think about where we sit in the world and what we want our future to look like.
I think that the time is right to address some global issues that have been let unresolved for quite some time. Humans have steadily become disconnected from the natural world which has had some far-reaching consequences. Children are spending more time in the digital world than ever, traditional skills are being lost, obesity levels are on an all time high, mass tourism has devastated environments and communities and greater urbanisation has meant that our natural world is being put under increasing pressure from uncontrolled population growth.
I’d hope that by encouraging more people to get back into nature, enjoy it safely and to share their experiences with their communities, we will foster a next generation of adventurers that will take a proactive role in the preservation of our natural world.
I’m optimistic for what our future holds and I hope that Wejugo can play its part and give back. I also hope that we have fun along the way and don’t lose track of the most important things in life that keep us pushing the boundaries of adventure and discovery.