The story of civilisation is one told entirely on two legs. It's only because our ancestors decided to wander out of Africa 80,000 years ago that you and I are fortunate enough to be here today. From settlements to silk roads, those initial ramblers laid the foundation for everything to come.
The presence of humans in Britain has only been continuous for about 12,000 years during half of which, the Ridgeway – an ancient trail running from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon – has been used by traders and travellers.
Last week, I decided to walk all 87 miles of it.
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Walking the Ridgeway imbued me with a great sense of sonder – the realisation that everyone around you is living a life as complex as yours with their own stories and their own successes and failures – and not just now but throughout all of human history. My footprints on that 5,000 year old road will fade like the footprints of the travellers and tradespeople before me but for a few days in October, our stories became one. I realise that I depend on them in the same way we all depend on each other.
I didn't manage to walk the whole trail in five days as I had planned – zero training, poor pacesetting and overly ambitious targets don't make for good ultra-distance walking – but I did cover a significant chunk of it and I'll walk the rest of the Ridgeway over the coming weeks and months and continue my journey along Britain's oldest road one step at a time.
And that's the same spirit in which we need to tackle the challenges that bring leaders together for the COP26 conference today. We have a long distance to walk and there is much ground to cover but the solutions to the challenges we face are in essence the same solutions that got you and I here today: curiosity, collaboration, and unflinching determination in the face of adversity.
Humankind is is not inept; we are adept to change and we must adapt in the next 8 years to see the next 80,000.
You'll next hear from me on December 1st 2021.
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