Bear Grylls with Barrack Obama

Despite being a great admirer of Bear (we served in the Army together) I don't normally catch his programmes. The whole survival theme doesn't really do it for me and seems a bit ill founded. After all the liklihood of Joe public needing to draw on these skills by biting the heads off live animals to stay alive is about as remote as winning the lottery. Still it does touch something primal in many of us - otherwise the programmes wouldn't be so popular. So quite a coup for Bear to spend outdoor time with the most famous man in the world as part of his celebrity based Running Wild series.

A hike through the Alaskan forest soon led the pair to what I suspect was some carefully placed bear fur caught on a bush. Even the President seemed pretty unconvinced by this but took it all in good humour. Of course Obama wasn't doing this for the exercise and halfway through the programme the underlying theme emerged. By hiking to Exit Glacier in Alaska and the edge of the Harding ice field, the largest in the USA, the President was able to emphasise his commitment to halting climate change. He likened our dependance on fossil fuels to a runaway truck approaching a cliff edge. His analogy continued with his reassurance that we don't need to stop straightaway but need to begin dabbing at the brakes to stop in time. All very well I thought - if only we knew where the cliff edge was!

I'm not sure that Bear would always be quite so starstruck but I wish he had held Obama to account rather than fawning over him quite so much. Hardly his fault as I suspect the questions and tone were all pre-determined by the production team. For his part the President looked quite at ease in the outdoors and this was the most interesting aspect of the interview, to see him away from any political agenda and talking about family alongside his likes and fears. Bear did a pretty good job of making their expedition light hearted and managed to get the President to eat some nasty looking salmon that he pulled from his sac. What a shame that the interview finished with them praying together as if their 'climate change mission' needed some evangelical zeal to send it on its way. In my opinion one reason to get into the outdoors is to leave religion and politics behind and deal in the tangible world. This then is where the programme failed for me as the environmental commitment simply doesn't ring true. After all Bear begins many of his programmes by dropping out of a helicopter, the most fuel hungry transport ever devised. And as for the President cruising around on Air Force One....

All that said well done to Bear for pulling this off. He seems to be moving away from the survival theme and is becoming more and more a convincing ambassador for the outdoors. He has been a great Chief Scout and I admire his determination - and example - to simply get us all out and doing more. It's a simple but persuasive message.