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Life as a game

In our everyday lives, the occasional mistake is not a disaster. For a mountain climber, however, a mistake can be fatal. On 1 August 2008, eleven mountaineers were killed on K2. I was on the mountain that night but I survived. The accident brought me closer to the essence of life. How bad can it be? When all’s said and done, it is all just a game.

Nature plays an important part in my life. Nature is my counsellor and my mirror. Nature provides everything I need to survive on an expedition, such as clean drinking water and sunlight. My respect for Mother Nature continues to grow. There is nothing that we mere mortals can tell her. Once you realise that, everything falls into perspective. We consider ourselves to be intelligent creatures, but the earth is not interested in anything we do. The earth will survive as a planet. The problem is that, one day, mankind will no longer be living on it.

When I am outdoors, I am conscious of my behaviour towards nature. At the South Pole, for example, you are not allowed to discard rubbish or packaging. When I was there, I was acutely aware of the volume of waste that we produce. At home or in the office, we tend not to think about what we are leaving behind us.

I now try to take a different approach to waste. We all throw away so much that can easily be recycled or reused. I am part of a group preparing for the ‘Clean2Antarctica’ expedition. We will be travelling in a vehicle we designed ourselves, made from recycled plastic and powered by solar energy. This vehicle will have to contend with the most extreme conditions on the planet, as will we.

I often wish that everyone would follow nature’s example, accepting and acting on their own personal responsibility. High in the mountains, a discussion about strategy will be a free and frank exchange of views. You do not want to put your life on the line if something does not seem quite right. In such an environment it is entirely unacceptable for people to shirk their own responsibility or go back on their promises. In the world of business, money can distort the picture. You can pay someone else to solve your problem.

How do we change this mindset? By thinking carefully and logically about our own behaviour. We like to do things the way we did them yesterday, which means that nothing will change today, tomorrow or the day after. Instead, devise smart solutions and, above all, adopt the long-term horizon. Make sustainable business a game! It is one which calls for patience, perseverance and the strength that comes from really wanting something. These are the very qualities that I need when I climb a mountain.

Wilco van Rooijen
Mountaineer