World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010

  • Walking the Green Talk

    Saturday 30th January 2010 - 9:00am - 9:45am

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  • Walking the Green Talk

    Patricia Glyn walked 2,200 kilometres from Durban in South Africa to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in the footsteps of her ancestors.

    Come listen to a thrilling, amusing, heart-warming, emotional and tragic story from an incredible adventurer

    Key Points

    • Travel on foot teaches humility and instils respect for local residents and sense of place
    • “Footing” as Africans call it, leaves plenty of time for meditation and reflection
    • Getting close to the landscape makes one confront outward truths and inward hypocrisy
    • Changing one’s personal conduct may not make a dent in sustainable development but it brings peace within
    • Any true safari takes you places you had not planned, or desired, to see


    A century and a half after her great-great granduncles travelled overland from the coastal city of Durban to Victoria Falls, Patricia Glyn set out to retrace their route on foot.

    For four and a half months Glyn walked, or as Botswana villagers put it, “footed” some 2,200 kilometres and 3 million footsteps. She footed over asphalt, sand and rocks. She traversed through an arid landscape, blackthorn acacia, Mopane trees and baobab. She witnessed terrifying lightning storms, heart-stopping bull elephants and breathtaking sunsets.

    In the ordeal of her quixotic odyssey Glyn grew hot, sweaty, tired, sunburned and cranky until she came to the edge of Mosi oa Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders), the great waterfall where she cast in sea shells collected at the start of her journey.

    The completion of a great journey leads to anticlimax, and returning home to her daily routines she fell into a deep depression, but emerged to tell the tale in print, through photos, on camera and in person. Audience members alternately squirmed in their seats, looked away from the screen and were moved to tears as they heard her story, both a physical trek and a psychological exploration.

    At the heart of Glyn’s safari was an intimate confrontation with how her own modern lifestyle and consumer choices helped bring about some of the destruction she deplored in nature. She ate beef, and day after day saw how cattle had ravaged the entire landscape. She excoriated big game hunters for killing wild sentient mammals, but on reflection realized how she enjoyed the bacon from sows driven insane by stockyard cages they could not escape. She relied on an industrial economy that was depleting the rivers she could cross on foot.

    At times, Glyn found herself reconnected to the rural villagers who, as a white urban female, she took for granted, or left at a distance, and whose language she could not speak. In retrospect, this language barrier led to amusing misunderstandings, such as when she pantomimed a request for an egg, expressing her hunger for something that came out of the rear of a chicken, but pointing from her own squatting buttocks to her mouth. She later practiced how to make this request in Setswana.

    Traversing each new physical and political border into the heart of southern Africa on foot deepened Glyn’s love and affection for her native land and its people. But more importantly she saw herself as more intimately and inextricably entwined in its past and its emerging future. She was forced to see the complexity of politics, acknowledging that Robert Mugabe’s notorious “War Veterans” squatting on white farms in Zimbabwe were actually very welcoming and supportive people up close.

    But it also led her to try to stop what she now saw as her own destructive personal conduct, altering her diet to become a vegan, and consuming not what she wanted, but only what she needed.

    It was perhaps fitting that her physical quest to re-experience the infinite force of Africa’s iconic noisy waterfall brought her face to face with her ego to discover a quiet path home to spiritual peace.


    Patricia Glyn

    , Adventurer, South Africa

    This summary was prepared by James Workman. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.

    Copyright 2010 World Economic Forum
    No part of this material may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or redistributed without the prior written consent of the World Economic Forum.

    Saturday 30 January

    Keywords: travel, adventure, Africa, journey, sustainability, women, exploration, wildlife, food, agriculture, water, tourism, meat consumption, landscape, fragile states

    Recommended reading for: Women Leaders, Global Agenda Councils for the Future of Africa, Climate Change and Sustainable Consumption


  • Patricia Glyn Patricia Glyn
    Adventurer, South Africa

    Since 1995, broadcasting for 15 years including: Patricia's People, a radio programme which profiled...