To experience wild places – and be mindful that they are at continual risk because of people, greed and over consumption – means, almost by definition, that you should ‘pay your taxes’ to the earth by defending the places you love to visit.
But to do this also means we need to understand that wild places will never be safe while demand for resources continues to grow. Sadly, getting an area declared a national park is not the end of the story. And concern for the environment has, far too often, seen indigenous peoples or concerns for social justice ‘liquid papered’ out of history. Social justice must be a fundamental part of our response to the destruction of wild places. Climate change threatens to profoundly change the places we love, even those that are ‘safe’ as national parks or other conservation reserves.
So, there is a ‘truth’ that I hold to be self evident. To be an adventurer means to have responsibility to the places we want to enjoy and also a requirement to see the bigger picture about why these places are at such grave risk.
Many of us seek to be sustainable in our daily lives. One small part of this relates to the gear we use that allows us to get out in the backcountry. But its not just about green consumerism: buying the ‘right’ product so we can have a clear conscience is not enough.
The bottom line in reducing impact is to use the old ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ ethos. When it comes to outdoor gear, these are the logical questions.
Do I really need a new pack (or sleeping bag, whatever), or can I fix an old one?
If I do really need a new one, what will last the longest?
Which one is made with the most attention to energy and water use, to its ability to be recycled at the end of it’s life.
Which one was made by workers who have access to good pay and decent conditions?
Which one is made by a company that gives back to the activists who are working to protect the wild places we all love?
Given how many of us buy gear on sale nowadays, and many of the products available are of dubious quality, are we just locking ourselves into cycle of short term addiction?
These are some of the questions I hope to be able to address in coming months. I see it as a conversation, not a sermon, so please send me your ideas.