About: Bjørn Heyerdahl | #1 Explorer Environmentalist
Bjørn Heyerdahl is an active explorer, environmentalist, biospheric designer, internationally renowned speaker, and consultant on humanitarian, environmental and development issues, and he is a Viking… an Earth Charter Viking.
Bjørn descends from a lineage of Vikings dating back to 812 AD, and he indeed represents his heritage. He is also the grandson of the Norwegian explorer and writer, Thor Heyerdahl, who led the Kon-Tiki Expedition in 1947, a journey across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands on a balsawood raft.
Inspired by his grandfather’s tenacity and the spirit of adventure that runs deep in the family blood, at age 18, Bjorn set out on foot, with no support and nothing but a backpack from Durban to Port Edward (a 200km trek). Bjørn Heyerdahl slept on beaches and ate only what he foraged or caught in the sea. He returned home a month later to face sentencing because of his conscientious objection in apartheid South Africa (1986), resolute that he would not be conscripted to fight a war he did not believe in.
After four years and nine months of his six-year sentence in prison, he was released. During this time, Bjørn Heyerdahl did hard labor, digging in rock pits nine hours a day, cleaning sewers, and later became acting Deputy Director of the House of Assembly, overseeing private hospital feasibility studies, hospital registration, and adherence to minimum standards.
He also studied psychology as part of his own healing journey, and after his time in prison, he opened a therapeutic practice, leadership coaching and organisational development consultancy. This odyssey of trial and education by fire is a worthy tale in its own right.
He believed people healed in healing environments, so in 1995, he set out to find what he considered a healing space for traumatized people. This led to many community-based, ecologically sound development projects, including designing and constructing a fully sustainable, off-the-grid lodge on Benguerra Island in Mozambique.
In 2002, he received an award and gained membership from the prestigious Explorer’s Club in New York for his contribution to the future of scientific exploration. He also received the Silver Medalion from Mikhail Gorbachev.
Invited by the Explorers Club in NY, the Royal Geographic Society in London, Green Cross International in Geneva, various organs of the United Nations, and multinational companies, Bjørn Heyerdahl travels globally as a Keynote speaker on multiple subjects, including inspirational and ethical leadership, as well as integrated approaches to the ecological, economic and climatic crises we face as a global community.
Bjørn Heyerdahl’s passion for finding solutions and working models of intelligent, sustainable human habitation led to the launching of the Midgard Expedition at the Explorers Club in New York in 2003.
Bjørn’s integral approach and multidisciplinary methodology, combined with his hard-earned personal grit, indomitable character and inexhaustible energy, sets him apart as an inspiring leader of a rare kind. His audiences are educated, elevated, inspired, entertained and changed through experiencing his energy, first-hand.
In 2020, The Midgard Expedition sailed under the Earth Charter flag. It was inspired by the efficiency, design, and earth-friendly materials of Viking longboats and the courage of the intrepid Vikings who built and sailed them centuries ago.
Bjørn Heyerdahl built the research vessel (RV) ‘Midgard Heron’, which travelled with a diverse crew of scientists, explorers, and sustainability specialists, studying how different communities implement sustainable practices and lifestyles. The Midgard Heron was the first Viking longboat to round the perilous ‘Cape of Storms,’ located at the southernmost tip of Africa.
His book, The Midgard Expedition, is an inspiring tale that details the grit, human drama, and monumental challenges they overcame to realize their lofty goals.
Bjørn intends to grow global ecological and ethical awareness on what can be done in response to the collapse of life support systems; and to elevate adults and youth to strong, ethical leaders through adventure, documentary, education, inspiration, and setting an example to follow.
Bjørn Heyerdahl often talks about turning the Earth Charter principles into action. “We need backbone, ‘vikingness’, and an unapologetic drive to start the implementation and see this through. We have an extremely ‘soft’ impulse to nurture and understand one another, but we must balance it with a strong drive to make things happen. We need to design and create the future we want.
Like the Vikings did.
We must stop apologizing and engage with those who are wittingly or unwittingly doing colossal damage to the planet. We must meet them with a loud voice and bring living, alternative models of sustainability into being. This is the intention of the Midgard Expedition. This Viking is here to promote new ethics and a vision for a sustainable future.
“There is a Viking Ship in every acorn.”
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Travels from: Toronto, ON, Canada
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