- Sep 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm #2133676
Dena KelleyBPL Member
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
What it means to me is that I want the next person to be able to come into the same place I hiked/camped and not ever know I was there. I leave no garbage. No fire ring. No toilet paper. Can't much help my foot prints, but those disappear pretty quick. It bugs me when I go somewhere that is quite remote…and there's a pop can on the ground. Or a cigarette butt. Or a shotgun shell. I don't care that people are drinking soda, smoking and hunting but for Pity's sake pack your garbage out.Sep 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm #2133678
Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
When you pitch a tent in a camp site, you often clear the ground of rocks, pine cones, and pointy things. Then next day as I am breaking camp, I scatter a few pine cones and pine needles around where the tent was to leave no further trace. Camp site beautification takes only about 10 seconds.
–B.G.–Sep 8, 2014 at 7:25 pm #2133716
@john, swallowing toothpaste makes me cringe, and I agree that it has about as much affect on the environment as a few foot steps. The cringe part is because last week I finally got over sodium flouride poisoning. Due to the fast paced work I do, including the massive amounts of tap water I drink plus my swallowing of too much toothpaste because I am too lazy to spit, I ended up with a two week bout of poisoning. If anyone wants to swallow their toothpaste for LNT reasons, make sure it isn't flouride based. The side effects were bad enough in civilization, and although it is extremely rare, it would be horrible in the backwoods! (soapy tasting mouth that makes you constantly thirsty even though you are well hydrated, vomiting and diarrhea, I also lost consciousness for a moment, rare to happen, just I want to let it be known as I just dealt with it)Sep 8, 2014 at 7:38 pm #2133720
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
Just did a few days with trail crew helping decimate campsites and fire rings, sometimes within a few feet of the water.
It's illuminating work, and back breaking hard. To make a campsite un-camp-able takes a lot of digging, hauling, and effort – bagging and spreading duff, pine cones, boulders of various sizes after sinking 50-80 lb chunks of rock about 3-5 feet apart over a large area that's been heavily used by lazy groups of people for years took us a day and a half. Then we started removing fire rings – dispersing rocks, digging through the pit for trash, and then dispersing the ash far away – fire pits are downright dangerous. Sharp shards of cans, glass and so forth are disguised by the ashes.
I would settle for people not building rock walls, rock furniture, or fire rings or pits large enough to roast a side of beef – traces can be expected. Nailing things to trees, littering, cooking the day's catch at the water's edge, or pitching fish guts in the shallow water -ugh. People are pigs.
Interesting to talk to a ranger about the disposal of fish guts. I have been told, in various jurisdictions, to bury them, pack them out, throw them far into the lake, throw them into the tree branches – and a ranger from one jurisdiction will be aghast by the suggestion made by a ranger from another. But they are all unified on the matter of packing out the used toilet paper…Sep 8, 2014 at 8:27 pm #2133738
"Leave No Trace" is a set of guidelines taught to outdoor groups. It's about how to respect natural settings, such as not leaving toilet paper littering the woods or starting a campfire which burns down the forest or even leaves a pit or burn scar on the ground.
It sounds good, but I've always despised it. Why?
To some people, ethics is rules or guidelines. To others, it's philosophy–or deeper.
At the core of native cultures is a respect for the land. It's what sustains the culture itself.
"When the first Europeans landed in the Americas, they described it as one vast untouched wilderness. This was about the highest compliment they could pay to the Native people who had lived there for thousands of years." –Bill Mason
I wonder what it says about us, that we have to work to figure out how to respect the land? We are so far removed from it as a culture that we've forgotten that it sustains us also.Sep 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm #2133748
Hmm, this sounds familiar.
I certainly agree that Native American cultural attitudes toward nature are fascinating, and something that can enrich us. But I think you can take this too far, and become too sentimental. This was not an ideal golden age. The reason that America was largely an untouched wilderness was not because the locals had made some noble principled choice to preserve it, but because their level of civilization was primitive – basic agriculture, little technology. Life for them was a bitter struggle, often painful and cut short by injury or disease that would be trivially cured in modern civilization. Their populations were simply too small to have much impact on the environment.
I agree that modern Western civilization may have lost balance in its relationship with nature, but that's largely because of our vast population growth, made possible because our advancing technology permits a quality (and quantity) of life that is in almost all respects dramatically better than the typical "native culture".Sep 8, 2014 at 9:18 pm #2133754
Ah yes, it's possible to rationalwiki any idea away isn't it?
The rational person also takes into account personal and cultural biases, and how the data may be skewed by such. Consider that none of us really know what life was like for Native Americans before exploration and then colonization began. All we have is the historical data which has been contaminated by direct observer effects, including observer bacteria and viruses.
"…their level of civilization was primitive – basic agriculture, little technology."
This is stated like a negative thing, yet this is exactly the point. :)
"Life for them was a bitter struggle, often painful and cut short by injury or disease that would be trivially cured in modern civilization."
Yes, and we know this from our European "interventional" observations, some of which included extermination raids and death marches.
To some, backpacking in the wilderness for three days would be "a bitter struggle, often painful and cut short by injury or disease that would be trivially cured in modern civilization."
Funny how it's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? :)Sep 8, 2014 at 10:09 pm #2133765
I wasn't making any comment on the evils that were perpetrated by colonialism.
We were reflecting on pre-colonial Native American culture, philosophy, quality of life etc.
And, well, I don't think the benefits of modern medicine, the provision of ample food by modern agricultural methods, and the benefits of modern technology are "a matter of perspective". Our quality of life, in general terms, is vastly better. That's why our populations are huge and our lives are long.
If you disagree, you always have the option of Papua New Guinea or the remoter parts of the Amazon jungle. Or the Sierras, forever, with no resupply stops or medical evacuations. It is possible to take this too far:
(and, before you give me a hard time, that's intended as an ironic link to rational wiki again…)
I'm not disagreeing with your primary point that we can learn a lot from Native American philosophy, that it may help us to rebalance our relationship with nature. I just don't think it helps that cause to suggest that their way of life was some unrealistic idyllic fantasy. I think that the whole "noble savage" thing is incredibly patronizing.Sep 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm #2133768
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
>"The reason that America was largely an untouched wilderness was not because the locals had made some noble principled choice to preserve it, but because their level of civilization was primitive – basic agriculture, little technology."
>"Life for them was a bitter struggle, often painful and cut short by injury or disease that would be trivially cured in modern civilization."
Not so fast. Read some Jared Diamond. 5-foot, 1-inch Europeans were impressed by the strength and physiques of 6-foot Native Americans. Yes, there were a lot fewer people per square mile. And many native cultures had some infanticide method to deal with over-population (versus Europe shipping them to the New World). But 100 agriculturalists, stunted and malnourished though they may be, can still beat one or two fit hunter-gathers, especially if they have guns, smallpox, measles, organized religion, and domesticated animals.
Bushman in the Kalahari forage for 12-16 hours a week and that's in an area the pastoralists didn't want. Most westerners work far more per week.
Most months and most years, hunter-gatherers didn't want for calories. You can't always be hungry and survive. Sure, there were bad years that served as pinch points, and inter-tribal wars, and immigration to other areas. But most days, they ate a very adequate and very varied diet. Certainly more than a European peasant did in pre-colonial times.Sep 8, 2014 at 11:00 pm #2133775
Interesting. But here you're comparing pre-colonial Native American culture with contemporaneous European culture. In that era, sure, I think it might well have been a similar quality of life, and perhaps superior in many respects in America.
But what have we got right and what have we got wrong since then as modern civilization has developed? I think that we forget how generally awful life was back then – for both Native Americans and European peasants – because we take for granted the quality of life that we enjoy through advanced agriculture, technology, medicine. When's the last time somebody you know died from a tooth infection, for example?
I think the problems with our "relationship with nature" stem not so much from an original failure of philosophy (although a different philosophy is now urgently required), but from the outrageous success of our culture. Our technology is supporting massive population expansion, and that's the cause of most of our environmental problems. Most of these problems would cease to exist if human population was reduced by 90%.
[edit to add:] I'm not advocating a return to Native American infanticide, but I think we urgently need to a get a handle on population growth. I always find it ironic when an environmental activist suggests that we need to save the world for the sake of our grandchildren. The way things look at the moment, the most obvious way to save the world is for most of those grandchildren to never be born.Sep 8, 2014 at 11:49 pm #2133782
W I S N E R !BPL Member
+1 on Jared Diamond.
I love this topic.
"But what have we got right and what have we got wrong since then as modern civilization has developed? I think that we forget how generally awful life was back then …"
From a victor's perspective, sure, civilization is working out pretty well (at least until we go down with the ship). But let's be honest and not forget the hidden costs of our civilization; wars, environmental destruction, and human exploitation/slavery on massive scales. We export these costs. We don't have to live with the chaos, war, and destruction of oil politics in the Niger Delta or the burning of the Amazon rainforest…but we get to burn the oil and eat the beef. In one country people shop for diamonds and electronics for fun, in another country, out of sight, people die in mines and wars to bring the resources for those luxury goods to market.
"…we take for granted the quality of life that we enjoy through advanced agriculture, technology, medicine. When's the last time somebody you know died from a tooth infection, for example?"
Yet nearly a million children under the age of 5 die per year because they don't even have access to the most basic of human needs: clean drinking water. Don't forget that only a percentage of the planet's population enjoys the privilege of advanced agriculture, medicine, technology…
"Our technology is supporting massive population expansion, and that's the cause of most of our environmental problems."
Blaming population is a disingenuous argument when you're not addressing the fact that a tiny fraction of the world's population owns and consumes the vast majority of its resources.
Civilization shouldn't get off the hook so easy.Sep 9, 2014 at 12:39 am #2133787
I don't see how the fact that resource consumption is uneven and inequitable makes the argument that population growth is a problem "disingenuous". How does it help anything to continue with massive population growth in the Developing nations? Surely there is a much greater chance of bringing standards of living (and access to drinking water!) up to the levels of the Developed world if population growth in those countries is not outpacing GDP growth.
Why on earth do you think that controlling the total human population and making the world a more equitable place are incompatible or inconsistent aims?
Sure, you can make the point that the Developed nations currently consume far more resources and are primarily to blame for screwing up the planet so far, and they should be taking the lead (and making the greatest sacrifices) in solving environmental problems. But much bigger problems may be coming, and the next generation of potentially much more serious environmental problems are going to be caused by the next generation of human beings, and the scale of those problems will probably be directly related to how many of those human beings exist.Sep 9, 2014 at 12:40 am #2133788
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Forget 200 or 2,000 years ago, I got 6 shots before going to Africa in the present day.
So, yeah, before I stepped into a time machine, I'd stuff my pockets with antibiotics (among other things).
I like Craig's points. Sure civilization and modern technology is pretty sweet for me, a straight, white guy, born in the US, trained as a engineer, married to a physician. We're not quite the 1% in the USA, but close and we'll within the 1% globally. Anyone in the top billion is doing just fine. The bottom 1/7, though, are pretty bad off. But then, that's always been true.
At least abject slavery is much less common now. And half the women on the planet aren't chattel. So things are getting better, slowly.Sep 9, 2014 at 4:22 am #2133792
Michael GunderloyBPL Member
And just 'cause it never gets said enough: thanks Lori for your work making things better. My own back-breaking labor days are long past, so I content myself with hauling out the trash. This weekend's one-nighter in the Hoosier left me bringing out five pounds more than I took in; cigarette butts, tin cans, broken glass, plastic cutlery, the usual.
Heck with the deeper philosophical reflections, I just wish people would pick up their own damned trash.Sep 9, 2014 at 5:07 am #2133793
Inaki Diaz de EturaBPL Member
@inaki-1Locale: Iberia highlands
LNT is not only regarding other humans possibly out there but also (mainly) about non-human beings who actually live in the place. It is very considerate to them all to try to avoid being noisy or anyhow disturbing.Sep 9, 2014 at 5:12 am #2133796
This may have been covered already, but what about the drive to a backpacking trip?
How much trace is being left there? If you drive 6 hours to the trailhead, stop for snacks, refuel, wash your windshield….and then practice LNT on the trail, are you any better than someone that lives ten minutes from the trailhead and leaves a small trace? Is using a canister stove ( manufactured, shipped a few times with a paper trail, non refillable etc.) better than cooking over a small fire?Sep 9, 2014 at 6:08 am #2133799
Ken T.BPL Member
Where idealism and marketing meet.Sep 9, 2014 at 6:47 am #2133805
LNT? Don't exist. Problem solved.
Who determines what constitutes LNT?Sep 9, 2014 at 7:18 am #2133811
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
Well, there's a neat pdf on the lnt.org page….
If I wrote it, the list would be short and sweet.
If you brought it, take it with you.
If the fire is big enough to roast your child, it's too big.
If you build it, take it apart and make it look like it was never there.
Leave it cleaner of signs of human presence than you found it.
Don't feed/touch/approach the animals, and don't let them approach you. No matter how "cute" they are.
Don't let your dog chase or destroy stuff either.
As for the deeper philosophical stuff – you're carrying so many petroleum products around already that's a much bigger argument to fight. Getting rid of all the nylon and other chemistry we carry will have us reverting to the days of "don't touch the wall of the tent".
Fire scars in the rocks are a blight that keeps on giving – there's really no excuse for 8 foot black char up the side of a boulder.
Are we also going to pick on trail crews hauling jackhammers and generators up Forester Pass to work on the rockwork? Not maintaining trails is LNT. That would just increase the number of SAR incidents as people are so lazy they'll likely not bother with map skills and just let the GPS tell them where to go – great way to get into trouble. Everything has a consequence. Pick your poison.Sep 9, 2014 at 7:34 am #2133816
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
LNT is just hiker aesthetics. People don't want to go hiking and see trash all over.
I'm into it. I always collect trash and carry it out. Rarely, a piece of trash will get away from me. Blow away in the wind or something. For some reason, I've left my bear hanging rope a couple times.
I have almost never built a fire that wasn't in an existing fire ring. Yeah, why is it people like to have a circle of rocks? I like to pull away a couple rocks on opposite sides so I can lay a long branch, burn it in half, burn each half in half,…
Chaff topic in non chaff – great!
It seems like the rest of the world is catching up with us. Burning more fossil fuel and so forth. I hope we figure out how to provide energy needs without spewing out pollution. If everyone burned the same amount as us it would be untenable. And I hope population reaches a stable number, that exacerbates everything.Sep 9, 2014 at 7:35 am #2133817
"Everything has a consequence. Pick your poison"
Exactly. In that vein there should be little finger pointing to individuals about small things. Or, if one is going to lecture someone on the trail for a fire mark on a boulder, one should be willing to sit down and have a conversation with that person.
Nothing wrong with trying one's best and helping others see how we impact the environment, but only if one is willing to take the time and look at more than a simple snapshot.
Maybe that offender that left a fire mark does so much for the environment and/or fellow man in other ways, maybe more than the perfect LNT backpacker, that any trail side soap box lecture would be completely out of place.
Good practices, setting good examples and possibly a polite suggestion with an open mind, are about as much as anyone should do if encountering a fellow hiker that left minor traces behind.Sep 9, 2014 at 9:34 am #2133839
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
@ DaveU just to answer … Who determines LNT? … the landowner, private or public in the US. It's pretty much codified as the law as government agencies adopted the LNT organizations guidelines subject to a federal or state fine (which can be contested in front of the appropriate judge, should one feel like losing their time and money … what do lawyers cost nowadays … $200 per hour or so?). If a private landowner has granted an easement for a trail, they'll at a minimum demand LNT be followed to cross their land or revoke permission enforceable by the county sheriff (at least $100 fine … maybe facing the business end of a rifle or shotgun, getting a ride to court or jail, dropped the furthest distance from your vehicle, and all sorts of law enforcement "fun-ness").
ed:br, plus I always wanted to use codifiedSep 9, 2014 at 9:44 am #2133845
W I S N E R !BPL Member
So one camp thinks it's all a green fascist marketing ploy. Another camp gets into debating semantics and whether or not anything can really be leave NO trace and tries to invalidate the entire concept. Others seem to think it's the heavy hand of big brother holding us down in the woods (Who are YOU to tell ME I shouldn't have a fire?). And finally, it seems, there are those that think that because you wear a nylon jacket and drive a car to the trailhead we're all screwed and there's nothing we can do anyway. Some blame Obama. Others have missed the forest for the trees and turned LNT into a Zen koan: Is it LNT to fart in the woods?
That said, I love the LNT curriculum.
They have loads of downloadable and printable teaching resources.
Oh God!! It's happening!!! Is it LNT to print an LNT instruction book on paper?! I digress.
Many of you know I'm a high school teacher that runs an outdoor club. I educate dozens of kids on LNT every year.
When you're dealing with a few dozen kids that have spent their entire lives in an urban setting and their greatest knowledge of the outdoors comes by way of Bear Grylls and adventure movies where you chop down trees and burn everything in sight to camp, having a curriculum helps. They get it. Not a single student has ever belabored the point that leaving NO trace is impossible (metaphor as a teaching tool anyone?).
If you actually look at their curriculum, it's solid. Reading material with quizzes and activities, covering everything from proper hygiene and waste disposal to whether or not leaving "biodegradable" trash is OK. It also introduces them to basic stewardship/conservation concepts. There is also a good deal of discussion about why it is important to lessen one's impact, about historical cases of overuse and destruction that have been reversed in many areas through sound management.
As a teacher, it's much easier to not have to reinvent the wheel. For people steeped in outdoor culture, LNT "propaganda" may seem like too much or seem too obvious (though judging by the amount of used toilet paper , trash, and fire damage out there, all these "experienced" people aren't as solid on LNT ideas as I would hope).
It's a set of ideas that make an excellent starting point when dealing with beginners, especially a classroom of teenagers. If I can get a few dozen kids into reading and taking quizzes and having enlightened discussions on it…and then go out and put it into practice…I'd say it's a huge success.
Would you send this band of misfits into the woods with a bunch of gear without a proper discussion on why they shouldn't build forts and pee in the river?Sep 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm #2133906
"I'm not disagreeing with your primary point that we can learn a lot from Native American philosophy, that it may help us to rebalance our relationship with nature. I just don't think it helps that cause to suggest that their way of life was some unrealistic idyllic fantasy. I think that the whole "noble savage" thing is incredibly patronizing."
Why the hyperbolic leap in logic there?
I don't think anyone suggested that the native way of life was an "unrealistic idyllic fantasy." What was actually suggested was that Native Americans did a heck of a job with going way beyond our "Leave No Trace" guidelines over thousands of years, and on a deeper level than following a set of silly rules.Sep 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm #2133909
Katherine .BPL Member
OK, i'm getting this mixed up with the native advertising thread!
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