Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Outdoor Ethics?

The Leave No Trace program teaches skills. But, and perhaps more importantly, it aims to impart an ethic. And overriding outdoor ethic that will hopefully guide those who enjoy the out of doors in making good decisions. An ethic is defined in many ways. Since I've been with Leave No Trace, I've run across many definitions of the word 'ethic'. Some are more apropos than others and some are simply dead-on. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
  • What you do when no one is watching
  • Obedience to the unenforceable 
  • A system of guidelines for governing our behavior 
  • Ethics is what you do in the dark before the game warden shows up, before some tells you to shape up. Shame is what you feel when they catch you doing something wrong; guilt is what you feel when you do something you know is wrong, period. One requires law enforcement, the other only requires that still, small voice…
Leave No Trace, as an outdoor ethics program, seeks and observable change in behavior that is due to internal motivations based on ethics. I believe that education is how we’re going to make the difference - I have seen it work all across the U.S. and in many countries around the globe. However, education alone is not enough to change behavior. Behavioral change needs to come from somewhere deeper. There needs to be an internal ethic driving us to make good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly then following through with our actions. It’s not what you did yesterday, it’s what you’re doing tomorrow.

A few things about Leave No Trace:

  • Leave No Trace is not about rules and regulations.
  • Leave No Trace is not about right vs. wrong.
  • Leave No Trace is not black and white.
  • Leave No Trace is a framework for making good decisions about how to enjoy the outdoors in the most responsible way possible.

I personally view Leave No Trace as spectrum – on one end there are some impacts, on the other end there are none. I encourage people to figure out where they fit into the spectrum – where they’re comfortable – and to do what they can to minimize their individual impacts.

The primary goal of Leave No Trace is to: prevent the avoidable impacts and to minimize the unavoidable impacts. By doing so we can protect and preserve both natural resources and the quality of the recreational experience. This can also minimize the need for restrictive management activities by land managers.

I truly believe that if everyone did something, even something small, to minimize their impact on the out of doors, the result would be huge!

Be safe, have fun, explore and most importantly, think about how you can enjoy the outdoors responsibly...

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