Rod Walker, often referred to as the 'father' of outdoor education in Chile, is a British environmental educator who has made Chile his home since 1965. After reading Law, climbing and rowing at Oxford, he followed a life-long passion for sharing with others the simplicity of outdoor life in mountains, discovered as a schoolboy in the Scottish highlands at Glenmore Lodge, Britain's first purpose-built outdoor centre in the Cairngorm mountains. This, followed by 2 years in the Antarctic, led him to found an outdoor learning centre in Chile's central Andes, CEAL, and develop it as a place of experiential outdoor education. In time, CEAL became recognized internationally, running courses in assoctaion with United World Colleges and the International Baccalaureate Organization.
Rod has enjoyed being a meteorologist and dog-handler for 2 years with the British Antarctic Survey, ski instructor, headmaster of two British schools in Chile, carpenter and builder, soap salesman, marathon runner, interpreter, Reiki master, University teacher and consultant in several countries. His current interests include cycling, lake canoeing and encoding DIY websites like this one. Right now he is preparing a terrace at his forest home for barefoot walking meditation, inspired by the concept of the labyrinth.
In the late 1980's, as Chile was beginning its slow and painstaking efforts to re-construct appearances of democracy and environmental responsibility, Rod was looking for ways to work with greater relevance in both areas. In 1990, the death of his son led him to travel South again to the area where they had enjoyed fishing together, and friends introduced him to the recently purchased Caņi araucaria forest in the mountains near Pucón.
He was captivated by the beauty of the hidden lakes and ancient native forest there, where people were gathering to raise conservation awareness. Rod left the central Andes, built a base hut and donated it to begin the Caņi's education and protection project, where he began to live in 1993. He aimed to apply his experience in outdoor education to generating work for young people as ecotourist guides, and so contribute to economic development in rural areas where high unemployment causes many young people to migrate to the cities to find work. His participation in the project, so novel at the time that it was scarcely understood and even resisted, became recognised by the Ashoka international association of social entrepreneurs, who elected Rod a Fellow of Ashoka in 1997.
In 1999 Rod applied his work in Argentina, leading a successful program for informal outdoor educators known as TOCATIERRA (EARTHTOUCH), an initiative that found official approval and still continues independently. From 2000 onwards, Rod collaborated with Chris Loynes's Threshold team on several 'Reflexive Practitioner' modules for the MA at St Martin's College, Ambleside. He is developing deeper methodologies for environmental learning, to complement the more superficial models encouraging expanding 'green' consumerism. Rod considers that the deep ecological understanding of the indigenous Mapuche people has a role to play in helping Chile resolve what he sees as the schizophrenia of its environmental discourse. His basic question has been, how can we facilitate the language, the will and energy, to promote the real change that is so needed?
2006 brought one unexpected answer to this question, in the shape of a Tibetan Buddhist healer from Nepal - Lama Ngawang Rigdzin, who practises Reiki energy healing, not only as a physical cure but also as a social service. After accompanying the Lama for 18 months in Chile, and later in Nepal, Rod finally came to understand what intuition so often can suggest to anyone who searches - that the healing effect of contact with the Earth and that of contact with the universal energy known as Reiki - or divinity with its many names - are essentially identical. Both enable re-connection with the Source, our essence that is the integrated whole. Both produce awareness of the unity that we experienced in moments of expanded perception - the over-arching unity that quantum physics is now recognizing as non-local consciousness. Such contact brings balance, clarity and deep wellbeing to the individual, society and the places where they live. This is the understanding he hopes to introduce as this EarthTouch website continues to develop.