So, you love the wild places?
I can see why? Who doesn’t like travelling to exotic places, to experience it for themselves. Who doesn’t want to go explore Machu Picchu, go cycle the Ho Chi Minh Trail, or scale Everest? Not to mention visiting Patagonia, or Lake Baikal in Siberia? After all, it’s a beautiful, wonderful world, simply waiting for us to explore it, right?
Actions have consequences
That includes your actions. Each of us carry full responsibility for the consequences of our own actions. There is no exception for you, and this isn’t a case of “everyone else needs to think about what they’re doing, but it wouldn’t matter if just you do those things”. All of us bear responsibility for the consequences of our own choices.
Like many others, I once quite wanted to scale Everest. The reality of doing that is a million miles from the romantic dream though. The mountain has become so overcrowded, and full of litter that it is now called the world’s highest rubbish tip. Sadly, on Everest, the “litter” often includes the bodies of human beings who died there, who remain on the mountain. Practically every single person who went there, even if they went no higher than Basecamp, share the blame for the litter. This is a perfect example of what I mean when I say we’re destroying the places that we love. However, it certainly isn’t limited to Everest.
Change your views and you’ll change your habits
Unless you’re a scientist, performing some much-needed studies, or someone who lives, and has always lived in a wilderness, the best thing any one of us can do is simply to stay away. One of the places in the world I’d most like to visit is Machu Picchu. In fact, I would absolutely love to wild-camp there. Yes, I know that’s not permitted, but that’s also entirely besides the point. I’ve long accepted that I’ll never visit Machu Picchu, because the harm I would do just getting there and back is too great. Simply flying there and back would be over three tonnes of CO2, and the sustainable limit we each should aim for is no higher than 2.2 tonnes per year, ideally less. Incidentally, if you still don’t know what your personal CO2 footprint is, go calculate it now. I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d easily stick £20 on a bet that your CO2 footprint is at least three times what it should be.
You want me to stay away from beautiful places?
Not quite. I want you to understand that the mere act of visiting beautiful places can, and likely does contribute to their destruction. Why would you choose to do that? Climate change is real, and is accelerating. The time of explorers like Livingston is long gone, and that’s a good thing. We have a new, and unchartered era ahead of us, and all of us must change if we want to survive.
Oh, you’re one of those lentil-munching doom prophets?
Not at all. I’m a realist, who is terrified by the picture emerging from the science. I’m also an optimist, who passionately believe that we can still turn this around. If we act now.
So you want me to have no fun?
On the contrary! I want you to have a barrel-load of fun, just perhaps not in the way you’ve always behaved. Stop flying and take a coach, or a train. Make getting there and back part of the adventure! Don’t drive journeys under 2 miles, ideally don’t drive under 5 miles. Walk, cycle, or ride a kick scooter instead. Roller skate, for that matter! Look at your own local area with fresh eyes. Adventure is where you look for it, and that can be right on your doorstep. Thinking you have to travel halfway around the world to have an adventure is fool’s gold.
Go cycle touring! You will experience paces you thought you knew in wonderful new ways. You will be travelling at a human pace, and you’ll feel enriched as a result. Change your diet, and at very least reduce your red meat consumption. Try out meat-free burgers, or other vegetarian or vegan options. Be adventurous with your diet and try new things. Put a map of the UK on a dartboard, and throw a dart at it. See where the dart hit, then catch a coach there, and go hiking, wild-camping as you go. I pretty much guarantee even well-seasoned travellers around the UK will discover places they never even knew existed.
Love the wild places
Treasure them. Understand how fragile they are. Understand how much we all depend on them, and do what you can to protect them.
Yes, even if that means staying away from them.