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As we destroy nature we destroy ourselves


‘œAs we destroy nature we destroy ourselves. It’™s a selfish thing to want to protect nature. To do good you actually have to do something.’ – Yvon Chouinard

Those of us who love adventure must, almost by definition, love the natural, wild world. Yet I have been growing increasingly aware of how little I do to care for those wild places.

I have started reading more, learning more, and having conversations with people who know far more than me about these issues. Here are some points which might help you ask a few more questions about how adventures can be a force for good, not just an extra contribution to environmental destruction.

  • Rob Greenfield asked me to think “How much value of adventure do you get per tonne of CO2?” All flights are bad for the environment, of course (a bonus for microadventures or cycling round the world). Short haul, low reward flights are bad news. If you really must fly for your adventure, best to go for a long time and make it count. There’s no doubt that if I want to start being serious about this, then I need to focus more on flightless travel. Microadventures are an important stepping stone for this.
  • It’s very helpful to be aware of the idea of Shifting Baseline Syndrome. Each generation defines what is ‘˜natural’™ or ‘˜normal’™ according to current conditions and their personal experiences.  With each new generation, the expectations of various ecological conditions shifts.  The result is that our standards are lowered almost imperceptibly. This has really made me look differently at our wild places. For example radically depleted fisheries are evaluated by experts who use the state of the fishery at the start of their careers as the baseline, rather than the fishery in its untouched state. There is a loss of perception of change that occurs when each generation redefines what is “natural”.
  • A good question to ask (though I doubt we will like the answer): “How will our generation be judged?”
  • Adventure should not be at the cost of someone / something else.
  • Creating vs Consumption – creating an adventure vs buying stuff. We need to be careful about falling into the trap of thinking getting out into the wild is intrinsically linked to automatically buying stuff. Quality gear is important, of course, but creating memorable experiences should be the goal, not just buying stuff.
  • Limits and constraints can be a good thing (both creatively and in hatching adventure plans) – you can explore locally for ever without knowing it all. “A single mountain range is enough exploration for an entire lifetime.” says Rickey Gates in of my favourite short films on this idea. Really, deeply engaging with one spot, or adding richness to your experience by doing the same adventure in the same place in different seasons certainly appealed to me in my four seasons of microadventure. The art of Richard Long, Adrian Gray or Andy Goldsworthy might also give you some ideas about slowing down, being more observant, savouring what you have right now.
  • On that note, my personal eagerness for seeing it all, doing it all, is at odds with this pearl of wisdom from Karl Rahner. “In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we eventually learn that here, in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished.” Or, more simply, “there’s nothing better at the end of any road than can be found beside it.”
  • Nature connectedness is the extent to which individuals include nature as part of their identity. I had not consciously realised how important this was to me until I began reading about it.
  • We are disconnected from our consequences in daily life – not so on Adventures, where we are self-reliant. Perhaps adventures can move us to be more aware of the need to be self-reliant in the ‘real world’ too? For example, we never drop litter on an adventure. But at home we ‘˜drop litter’™ in a bin and it gets dumped out of sight somewhere. This is a great little film highlighting this.
  • Citizen science can really benefit from people going on expeditions, particularly to remote areas. Here’s an example of how it works.

I hope that this prompts a few thoughts. I’md be very interested to hear any other ideas or advice you can give in the comments to help me keep learning and improving.

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  1. John Hird Posted

    As Ghandi said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world could also change.” i.e. Be the change you want to see.

    If we can see the impact that Western consumerism has on the world we begin to appreciate the risks of upgrading our tech, gear etc. Marketing convinces us to be unhappy with what we have, but buying more stuff doesn’t help.

    The answer definitely lies in learning to accept where you are and what you have.

    You’re doing a great job Alastair. I love it that you achieve so much and yet spend so little.

  2. Great post Al! It is so true that the beauty of the moment can be overlooked in the rush for the experience.
    I just read a fantastic book called “The Outermost House” by Henry Beston. It is prose to be savoured just like the natural world it describes.

  3. Thanks for this piece.
    I love the ‘conscious connection’ part of adventure, even though it sounds so flippin new age, I’m surprised JP Sears hasn’t done a film about it.
    I started using nature as a big mirror when out walking and started writing about it. I’m not just commenting on this to plug my writing though; it’s a passion of mine to try and demonstrate what I get from a deeper nature connection through writing and reflection.
    The process definitely deepens my respect and truly places me within nature, not outside, looking in
    All the best!

  4. Quest Posted

    About time! A bit late! Get moving!



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