David de Rothschild – 21st Century Renaissance Man

David de RothschildAfter finishing this month’s Outside magazine article on David de Rothschild, I felt compelled to share his story with you, my dear Beard Coach friends.  I hope the brief bio below motivates you to grow the best beard you can, broaden your horizons, and take action for a cause you feel passionately about.

If you’ve read The Beard Manifesto, you know I am obsessed with the idea of bringing the Renaissance man back, updated for the 21st century. A modern Renaissance man has to be a well-rounded generalist like his predecessor; yet, his interests must lie not in the ancient world of Latin translation and Aristotle, but rather in how to better the current world situation. And of course, he must do it all with a handsome beard.

First, let me present a bit of background information on David de Rothschild to get you up to speed.  He is the youngest of three children born into the well-known and incredibly rich Rothschild banking family of England.  As a result of his wealthy British upbringing, he became an accomplished horseman by age fourteen.  He attended university at Oxford Brookes (not The Oxford, but hey…) and graduated with honors with dual degree in Political Science and Information Systems.  After graduation, he proceeded to earn an advanced diploma in Natural Medicine from the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London.  After this graduation, he went on to try out a career in music merchandising.  Not only did he take off in this unlikely direction, he also purchased an organic farm in New Zealand in 2001.

Let’s pause a moment and chalk up the titles this generalist can claim.

  • Equestrian
  • Political Scientist
  • Information Systems Specialist
  • Natural Healer
  • Merchandiser
  • Farmer

In 2005, David discovered his true calling, founding his environmental organization Adventure Ecology.  The main focus of this organization is to raise awareness of global environmental issues through adventure expeditions.  In 2006, he crossed from Russia to Canada through the Arctic to raise awareness about the fragility of the Arctic climate.  Because he previously traversed Antarctica on a personal expedition, he became one of only 42 people ever to reach both the north and south poles.  In 2007, he led a trip to Ecuador to document the damage that international oil companies are causing to that country’s tropical ecosystem.

His current project is the Plastiki, a sailboat made of used plastic bottles and other recycled plastics.  David plans to sail this plastic boat from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, via the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area estimated to be twice the size of Texas in which bits of plastic suspended in the water outnumber plankton by a ratio of six to one.  Not only is this project raising awareness of the huge problem of plastic waste, but it is also offering a possible partial solution.  His boat design team is making use of a new material abbreviated srPET.  It has the properties of fiberglass, but is made of recycled plastic.  If the material holds up to this rigorous field test, it could take the place of many rotomolded plastics, thus reducing the introduction of new plastics into an already overwhelming abundance.

So now we can also chalk up the following titles David can claim.

  • Adventurer
  • Environmental Activist

As you can see, David de Rothschild is an extremely well-rounded man with a passion for improving the world around him.  In interviews, he comes off as incredibly well-spoken, but not overly well-heeled, and as you can see in his photo, he wears a beard quite well indeed.  In the quest to increase the number of bearded Renaissance men in today’s society, David serves as an iconic example.  Although we may come from much more modest means, we can all take his story as an inspiration to broaden our knowledge base as much as we can in our respective areas of interest and use that knowledge for the good of our world.