Explorers Web this morning that I'm sure many of you will find very interesting. The article is entitled "Exploration Clubs - What Future for a Tradition in Decline" and it is written by CuChullaine O’Reilly, one of the founders of the Long Riders Guild. In the story, CuChullaine takes a good hard look at the current state of exploration and the role that clubs such as the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club play in it. What he finds is that these once important institutions have become relics of the past, seemingly more focused on raising funds rather than promoting the importance of exploration in the 21st century.
The editorial offers some scathing commentary not on the current state of exploration itself, but the state of the RGS, EC and similar organizations. O'Reilly says that being a member of those institutions was once a badge of honor that had to be earned, but that now days many people are admitted who have only a superficial connection to true exploration or are simply armchair explorers who want to rub elbows with those who are actually continuing to push the envelope. In contrast, he points to his Long Riders Guild, which has no fancy headquarters, no membership dues and no regular meetings. Members are invited to join after completing a ride of 1000 miles (1600 km) or more and the group stays in touch and organized via the Internet.
Cuchullaine goes on to talk about a new age of "citizen-explorers" who no longer belong to such clubs but instead stay connected, and engage with, like-minded people through a variety of technologies that allow us to collaborate like never before. These tools open up the possibilities for exploration and adventure to everyone, not just a privileged few as in ages past. He sees this movement creating a new renaissance of exploration and I tend to agree with him. We've seen this in action many times in recent years, with men and women organizing small, grassroots expeditions that accomplish amazing things.
O'Reilly was also kind enough to name a few online resources that are helping to promote this movement, citing my blog as one of those resources. He also mentioned ExWeb as well, and if you're a regular reader of this blog you know how much I respect the work they do. Cuchullaine gives a nice tip of the hat to Mikael Strandberg for his efforts in this area as well. Mikael is also someone that I've cited here on numerous occasions and is an explorer that I admire quite a bit. I'm honored to be mentioned with prominently in the story and listed with these others.
The editorial is a good one and I urge everyone to read it. While I'm sure many will see it as a harsh critique of the RGS and Explorers Club, I choose to view it as a recognition of the democratization of exploration. In this new age, anyone with the desire and determination can carry the torch of exploration into the 21st century and beyond, and I think that is a great message to share.
Thanks to Cuchullaine for bringing this message to the community and for mentioning my small role in it.