Adventure entrepreneur turns eco-networker

Student brings together Leisure Studies and business

McMaster/China gray

Philip McMaster on the Great Wall of China, at Scimitan, high in the mountains northeast of Beijing. The photo below shows the cover of the Chinese travel-adventure guidebook in which McMaster is quoted.

by Nadine Ishak

McMaster book coverAfter two decades of seeing the world, Philip McMaster is taking steps to improve it. The Applied Human Sciences student has started a non-profit group called Eco Task Force to link local environmental groups around the world and provide them with advice and volunteers.

"The Eco Task Force lets outdoor enthusiasts know where Mother Nature needs their help, and what to do to make things better," he explained.

A self-proclaimed "adventurist," McMaster has done everything from ballooning in Arizona and tandem skydiving in the Caribbean to doing motorcycle ballet in the Japanese mountains. When he was a business student in Toronto, he started a club called Explorasport that organized ski trips, hang-gliding lessons and other adrenaline-rush-inducing activities. Membership peaked at 1,500, and the group went everywhere from Hong Kong to the pyramids.

"It was to give others the opportunity to explore the world on real terms," McMaster said, "not in big hotels, but with the little guy on the side of the road who makes tea for you."

Because he had seen a lot of environmental damage on his travels, he started the Eco Task Force. He wanted to create a socially responsible business that would help people to explore the world, not exploit it.

McMaster says that what local environmental organizations need is people on the ground -- "the people who do stuff." Eco Task Force volunteers began by planting trees and cleaning up beaches in Hong Kong, and continue to expand their scope, providing support to groups in Canada, China, and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

McMaster was writing environmental articles for The China Daily, an English-language newspaper in Beijing, when his work caught a local reporter's attention. The reporter wrote China's first adventure-travel guidebook, in which he quoted McMaster as saying firmly, "We'll train you to guide foreigners and we'll help you to develop the facilities, but sustainable Chinese adventures must benefit the community that is providing the attraction."

He came to study Leisure Studies at Concordia some years ago, and is delighted with Concordia's revamped Applied Human Sciences program. "It was good before, but it's a really good program now -- more applicable. In my case, that's a real bonus, because I have the experience. I've seen the places and I've seen the needs."

He added that his training in business has taught him to appreciate leisure studies. "Studying what happens in non-work time is incredibly complementary to commerce. The real skill for success is in human relations."

If you are interested in helping to establish an Eco Task Force cell here in Montreal, an information session is tentatively scheduled for January 20, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Please contact for more information.

Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.