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Changing course

How 27 year old Natalie left a job in marketing and sailing across the Atlantic with 40 complete strangers. All to speak out about climate change.

Written by Tearfund | 11 Oct 2019

The boat shortly before setting sail with banner proclaiming 'change course'

Sometimes life takes you in a different direction to the one you had planned. Last year Natalie Craig was a marketer working for a branding company. Now she’s on a sailboat to Chile, with 40 other people she’s never met before. Oh, and she has no sailing experience.

The turning point for 27-year-old Natalie came earlier this year. ‘It was the Extinction Rebellion protests about climate change,’ she recalls. ‘There was such a sense of urgency. Looking into their faces they looked as scared as I was about the future of our planet.’

Natalie, the daughter of Tearfund employee Sue Craig, had been learning about environmental change as part of a Masters Degree in sustainability. She hoped this would open new doors in her marketing career. ‘I looked at the Earth like a balance sheet and thought “this isn’t going to add up.”’

Natalie talked things over with her mum and dad and decided it was time to act.

‘At Easter weekend I changed my dissertation. I started studying the youth climate movement. While I was doing that, I read all about about the Sail to the COP environmental venture. I applied and was accepted.’

Taking the scenic route
Sail to the COP is a six-to-eight week boat trip to the Conference of the Parties, an annual climate conference, held this year in Santiago, Chile. It’s not the simplest or quickest way to get to the talks, and that’s the point.

Natalie stands by a globe

Natalie plots her course before setting sail.

‘Our main reason for going is that we are largely worried about the emissions of aviation,’ the organisers explain. ‘That is why we will not travel by plane but by sailing ship.’

Their journey across the Atlantic will be entirely powered by the wind, with an onboard generator keeping the lights and navigation systems on.

‘Every other day I do six hours of watches, throughout the day and night. On the other days I’m part of a think tank.’ The ship-mates are preparing a paper on the future of sustainable travel that will be presented to the conference.

It’s a strange mixture: half corporate brainstorming and half ‘life on the ocean wave’. ‘I like coming up with ideas. Sailing... I’ll have to find out if I like that,’ she admitted, shortly before setting off.

She says her mum and dad are very supportive of the adventure and credits her Christian upbringing with honing her passion for God’s creation. ‘I think growing up in church and going to the youth group has had a huge impact on me. I learned about greed and consumerism in church.

‘Mum has always been a guiding voice – always caring about this sort of stuff.’

‘ ‘I looked at the Earth like a balance sheet and thought “this isn’t going to add up.”’
Natalie Craig

A Greta vision
Although this trip was planned over a year ago, the crew’s thunder has been stolen slightly by another nautical climate change activist.

‘I was called bitter, because every time I mentioned what I’m doing, people say “oh, like Greta Thunberg”, and I would have to explain that we had actually planned this trip first.

‘But overall I was happy and was very, very excited by what she’s done. She has a huge platform and she uses it well. We wouldn’t have had these sort of discussions even a year ago – things like the environmental impact of Kate and Wills using a private jet; these things are suddenly big news.’

As she got ready to set off, Natalie said had mixed emotions about the trip. ‘It’s going to be sad at times, being so far from my family and friends. But I’m looking forward to spending time with people with different life experiences and different views to me. 

‘Actually, I’m really interested in the psychology of living on a boat for so long. It becomes your world for seven weeks. I basically want to monitor 40 people, like an experiment, and they don’t want me to!’

Please remember Nataile and the forty others on this journey. Ask God that they will be kept safe, but also ask that they will be inspired as they prepare their presentation. May their ideas and their example inspire hearts and minds at the COP Summit.

Make your voice heard on issues of poverty, injustice and God’s created world – join Tearfund Action.

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Written by  Tearfund

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