Patagonia | Accidental Activism

Lauren MacCallum really cairs about the Cairngorms...

Above PC: Hannah Bailey

Terrible puns aside, former golfer Lauren MacCallum is fiercely protective of her homeland, she’s like Greta Thunberg on craic. Climate activism wasn’t something Lauren had planned to become involved in, but like everything that she does, she ended up cannonballing in and landed on her feet. While somedays it might seem like a gruelling uphill battle, Lauren isn’t gonna throw in the towel, or drop it for that matter. Accidental Activism delves into why Lauren is so passionate about her surroundings, and is a stark look at how climate change is affecting her home. The Accidental Activism film launch is happening in Edinburgh on January 16th, pop along for an evening of snow activism and meet the woman, the myth, the legend LMac in person! Learn a bit more about Lauren and Accidental Activism below…

Can you explain who you are and where you currently live?

LM: I currently live in Aviemore in the Cairngorm National Park in the Highlands of Scotland. Day to day I am the general manager of climate advocacy charity Protect Our Winters UK, but I also occasionally appear on TV as part of the presenting team for BBC Scotland’s “The Adventure Show” and I recently I wrote a travel guide to Scotland called “Hidden Scotland”.

“In order to pull the circus of politicians up on their bullshit, you have to understand the policies”

Where and when did your interest in environmental activism/campaigning begin?

LM: Whether it’s land reform, climate change, or social justice, I think these things are all intertwined, impacting and influencing each other. I didn’t simply wake up one day and think, “I’m going to be engaged in environmental issues”. It has been a slow burner. But I would say 2012 was a turning point for me becoming engaged and going down the route of an activist. This was mainly because the Scottish Referendum campaign was in full swing, and I realised that, in order to pull the circus of politicians up on their bullshit, you have to understand the policies or, better still, understand them more than they do.

PC: Hannah Bailey

Why are the Scottish Highlands particularly special? And how do they fuel you?

LM: I think the Scottish Highlands is one of the most fascinating places in the world. The area has a fascinating story to tell If you’re prepared to come here, stop and listen. Full of folklore, Gaelic indigenous knowledge, beauty and tragedy… lots of tragedy. It’s that connection from the old to the new that will keep me forever fascinated and curious. Often the answers are already there, you just have to look into the past.

“Roll up your sleeves, buy a round and “Get the Craic”

Tell us about the community.

LM: Aviemore and the surrounding communities have fostered some great minds and athletes. They say you’re a product of your environment, and maybe that’s why. The natural environment here is unique, so it has the opportunity to give people a unique experience and outlook on life, which all adds to the great social ‘salt and pepper’ of life. People here are up for a good time, and it teaches you not to take yourself too seriously. Roll up your sleeves, buy a round and “Get the Craic”.

PC: Hannah Bailey

Was it your time spent snowboarding and mountain biking which truly connected you to nature/higher power?

LM: The first “action sport” which catapulted me into a community was skateboarding. At the time, I didn’t realise I was desperately looking for it, or what I was looking for.  I was 18, lost, average grades, and the reality of never making it as a professional golfer (my sport of choice when younger) was starting to sink in. So I packed it all in and started skating at ladies’ night every Monday at Transition Extreme in Aberdeen. I eventually started hanging around there so much that they gave me a job. It was there that I met fascinating people who just looked at life differently and encouraged me to do the same. I then took skateboarding to snow and learnt to snowboard on Cairngorm at the age of 19. I started climbing and mountain biking after that and, as they say, the rest is history…

“Action sports gave me that platform to learn, fail and connect with people around a shared identity”

Now looking back, I had no idea how influential those people, those communities and those experiences would be in my life. I had no idea who I was, what I stood for or who I stood with. Action sports gave me that platform to learn, fail and connect with people around a shared identity and in my natural playgrounds. It made me trust and feel connected to something way bigger than my personal circumstance and to want to protect and promote it. I am and always will be eternally grateful. This is what activism is to me.

PC: Hannah Bailey

Tell us about filming Accidental Activism? And how has the situation changed this season?

LM: Let me paint the picture. I knew the WRKSHRT production guys Wade and Dave from filming “Right to Roam” – another Patagonia film released in 2017, about Scottish Land reform. Before they arrived in Scotland to film “Accidental Activist”, they had been in British Columbia, Canada, filming with Travis Rice, Jamie Lynn and other snowboard legends, in the powder. When they arrived in Aviemore, it was 14 degrees and there wasn’t a flake of snow to be found. The Cairngorms were brown. So I said to the guys:“Who’s  up for making a mountain bike movie then?!”. It was awful. I think we were having one of the hottest months on record. I was in shorts and T-shirts and out on my bike. It was bizarre but, unfortunately, a symptom of climate breakdown. We had seven days to try and pull something together, and luckily it snowed pretty solidly for three days, and we managed to bag a couple of days on the hill. Those turns in the film where my first turns in Scotland for that whole season and that was in March. This season is not off to a better start, it’s been pretty depressing.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to Scotland’s wild spaces right now. It affects absolutely everything”

What is the biggest challenge Scotland is facing in the protection of wild places right now?

LM: Climate change is the biggest threat to Scotland’s wild spaces right now. It affects absolutely everything. From biodiversity, to land management, to rivers and water and us as humans. We tend to talk about protecting Scotland’s wild places, but we need to re-wild humans. Climate change is going to impact us more than anything. We have to establish our re-connection to nature in order to protect it. You can’t advocate for something you don’t appreciate. So I’d say Scotland’s biggest threat is climate change, and our current inability to do something about it, sensibly, and quickly enough.

PC: Hannah Bailey

Tell us about your work at POW UK – what are you doing and how can the outdoor community be (more) involved?

LM : My role as general manager at Protect Our Winters UK is pretty diverse. As you can imagine for such a small organisation there are a lot of jobs to be done with limited resources. It is challenging but also never boring! The vision of Protect Our Winters is to accelerate the transition to a carbon natural society. We do this by campaigning and encouraging the outdoor industry and communities to be a force for good, both at a policy and community level. We are also members of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland’ and the Climate Coalition. We campaign alongside other large and small NGOs advocating for more ambitious climate change policies (you can see an example of this if you look at Scotland’s Net 2045 target, in legislation). There is still a lot of work that needs to get done.

“You don’t need to be a climate scientist to campaign against climate breakdown. You just need to care”

How can someone be a positive force in the face of the climate crisis?

LM: Speaking up for the environment is like speaking up for any other marginalised or protected group. It is suffering, its rights are being violated and it needs our help. You don’t need to be an expert in civil rights to call out racism, or a relationship therapist to call out homophobia, or a psychologist to campaign for better mental health provision. So, guess what?! You don’t need to be a climate scientist to campaign against climate breakdown. You just need to care, that’s all that matters! The rest we can sort out later.

PC: Hannah Bailey

How can people become “accidental activists” for their local communities or environmental fights?

LM: What is your passion? Is it music, art, sport, knitting, cooking? Find it and use it. You could run a dinner, sell tickets and donate the cash to a local environmental cause. Or sell some paintings, or knit some hats. Whatever you can do, use your passion and turn it into purpose. Or if you’re a lawyer, accountant, skilled labourer, then small NGOs always need the support. If you don’t know what your passion is, where to start, or really what you care about, imagine being at a dinner party and your friend’s annoying partner has been invited. What would they say that would really annoy you? Tune into that, because it’s probably what you care about and want to protect.


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