Earth Day was something I used to overlook each year, like many people do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always appreciated my home planet and have always treated it with respect. But it wasn’t until my passion for photography ramped up and I began spending more time outdoors that I became much more aware of how fragile Earth really is and how we as humans must be its caretakers.
Many people who want to help the environment look to recycling, water or energy conservation, or reducing emissions. And while these are very important fundamentals to adhere to, I feel compelled to talk about something many people may not easily recognize when it comes to protecting our world. That is our impact in the great outdoors and its wild places and how we can be responsible when recreating.
A Struggle for Balance
My view of the world has been enlightened as I travel, meet people of different cultures, and spend more time outdoors. For me, nature is what has given me hope and happiness during troubling times. But it saddens me to see how some people lack respect for our planet and completely disregard their impact. It could be leaving trash where it doesn’t belong, vandalizing natural rock formations, or taking things that don’t belong to them to name a few.
Over the last several years more and more people are choosing to explore the outdoors and its beautiful settings. As people share their photographs of places they go through social media it inspires more people to join in. And while everyone deserves the opportunity to explore nature’s offerings, doing so without the forethought of your impact can consequently ruin these places.
I can’t help but feel partly responsible for this as it has long been my goal to encourage others to see incredible places and take in everything this world has to offer. I sometimes struggle to find balance between publishing my photos and sharing stories about places I visit while finding ways to protect those places from overuse and harm.
Going Forward and Treading Lightly
So what can we do about this? Well, there’s no stopping people from getting out and enjoying the world. But we can educate ourselves and other people better. We must be aware of our impact on the environment and take all steps necessary to minimize it.
In areas with developed trails, campgrounds, and parks we must practice good ethics and leave it in good condition. When exploring undeveloped areas in the backcountry or other pristine wilderness, it is essential to follow Leave No Trace principles. We must also monitor our children and pets not only for their safety but for the impact they may leave. Teaching our children to respect nature is critical to its future and their future alike.
Is it possible to for increasingly more people to enjoy the natural world without damaging it? I hope so. There’s no reason not to enjoy all sorts of recreational activities. But we must all do our part by minimizing our impact and being stalwarts of keeping our wild places just that.
Whether recreating on developed trails or exploring areas set aside as undeveloped wilderness, your impact to the environment cannot be reversed. These places are our greatest gift, so take care of it. Get out and enjoy what this world has to offer but please tread lightly.
“Cherish the natural world because you’re part of it and you depend on it.”
– Sir David Attenborough