Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Environmentalists

The Monitor interviewed young artisans, politicians, educators, entrepreneurs and faith leaders. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world. We'll serve this smorgasbord in bite-size servings of 3 to 7 profiles per day. Today's lineup of environmentalists includes a thoughtful hiker, an energy-saving college instructor, and first-time farmers trying to serve their local economy.

Gregg Treinish: Modern explorer

Courtesy of Deia Schlosberg
Gregg Treinish, founder and executive director of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.

As a young modern explorer, Gregg Treinish already boasts an impressive résumé. He has hiked the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail, became the first man ever to trek the Andes Mountains (covering 7,800 miles), and in 2008 was named "Adventurer of the Year" by the National Geographic Society.

Still, Mr. Treinish says, he felt unfulfilled. The 29-year-old, who lives in Bozeman, Mont., is well aware that some in society look upon him and other members of Generation X as being self-centered and civically apathetic. So this year he founded an or-ganization that offers his Merrell-wearing contemporaries a way to make a difference in the world.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation combines the passion of exploration with citizen science and the research needs of cash-strapped government agencies and environmental groups.

He has backcountry skiers, for example, assisting with efforts to expand a database on elusive wolverines, and alpinists documenting how global warming affects species in high elevations – the rafters of the earth.

He has backcountry skiers, for example, assisting with efforts to expand a database on elusive wolverines, and alpinists documenting how global warming affects species in high elevations – the rafters of the earth.

"We live in a time when young people are struggling to cope with traditional notions of what 'success' means that have been imposed upon them, and, at the same time, they are told to have lower expectations of what they can achieve," Treinish says. "We reject that. Having an enriching life doesn't have to be based on money."

He is concerned, too, about the phenomenon called "nature deficit disorder," coined by writer Richard Louv, that negatively affects children who are detached from natural environments. His group hooks up kids in different cultures, directly or digitally, with world-class explorers to ignite their interest in the outdoors and potentially to pursue careers in such things as wildlife biology, geology, and climate change.

"We want to make science cool," he says.

– Todd Wilkinson, Bozeman, Mont. 

Next: Shwetak Patel: Kilowatt saver

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