Chris Burkard and Charles Post co-guest edited the Wilderness Issue. If you haven’t heard us mention it already on IG or in the mag or anywhere, super nice guys. Also, they both have an incredible social media presence but more importantly seem to use that power for good. We have yet to see a bathroom selfie or Proactiv skin care promotional placement on their feed. Anyway, they had an idea of doing a feature based entirely on social media interactions and opinions. We said, “Why the hell not, but if @jerryseinfeld gets involved we’re pulling the damn plug.” They agreed. The following two questions went out into the world as asked by @chrisburkard and @charles_post through their Instagram accounts.
1. Wilderness at the expense of access or access at the expense of wilderness? Meaning, should trails and access be created so everyone can enjoy—even those limited to wheelchairs? Or should we limit access, preserving the wildness, but only making it accessible to select few?
2. What role, if any, does social media play in our national parks and wild places?
The response was impressive, no surprise there. They collectively had over 100,000+ interactions with their posts, but no word from Jerry. The following are a few of the select responses and interactions from the IG world. Thank you social media for not sucking.
- @Patrickstutts Social media in this generation is the strongest tool we have to start a worldwide conversation. We need to get people talking in a time like this. We need to start educated conversations about climate change, about protecting our national parks and monuments, and about what we can do to step foot in the right direction. Part of the reason social media was created was to connect us to people across the globe and now we can use that as a tool to make change. If we show people the real beauty of the places and show that these parks and wild places live and breath just as we do maybe we can reach them in some way deeper than just a pretty picture. Growing up in the U.S. shelters us so much. We never stop to think that our choices as a country affect more than what is inside our borders. We are on the literal tip of the iceberg. Things are changing fast and we need to start talking.
- @__mommababcock Good question. I’ve spent the last twenty-five years accessing remote areas of my mountain region. There were so many days that I would take my kids and not see another person. Nature is a great healer and on many walks I found myself in deep self-reflection. It was powerful and had the ability to heal, and inspire. As John Muir said, “I found that going out was really going in…” I find myself a little greedy – I hate the thought of social media inspiring thousands to go for a hike- although I realize there are mountains enough. Perhaps getting people out there will awaken their own spirituality. The experience of hiking a trail and gaining a summit cannot be equaled by someone who was helicoptered in or drove to the top. The journey is the experience. The solitude is the healer. If we create access at the expense of Wilderness we are ruined.
- @sarahscholtes Great question, I don’t think there is a simple answer to either. 1. My concern is there isn’t enough knowledge in the global community about how to care for our wild places currently, and increasing access could potentially increase the damage. I was extremely privileged to grow up learning about how to minimally impact an area when you visit, whilst still getting an amazing outdoor experience. My passion for the environment stems from these experiences, which were mainly through outdoor education programs at school. Through this, I have torn down the perception that humans are separate from the environment. This has inspired my passion to learn more about the environment and how to better protect it, especially when in the remote wilderness. I want others to enjoy what I had. It would be great to see more programs that link experiences in nature with education, so people can be aware of our impact whilst experiencing it first-hand. We have so few places left that we can classify as ‘wilderness’, and the more people that have access without the education, the less likely future generations will have to enjoy them. 2. I believe strongly that social media has a huge role in connecting people to our national parks and wild places. The impact being both positive and negative. Getting people to care about these places is so important, and social media has allowed for an audience to become inspired by nature from some of the least inspiring places – bed, toilet, public transport. I’ve seen first-hand how this has resulted in more people I know, getting out and experiencing nature. I am hopeful that this will translate to awareness of how our eco-systems are interconnected. What you do at home impacts what happens here. With power (strong social media presence) comes a great responsibility. If you want to inspire people to get out an experience these places, throw in some basic education to help nature out. National Geographic are the best at this! Without providing this knowledge, this is where social media and its influence can negatively play out. @chrisburkard loved the thought this evoked in me and can’t wait to read this article and learn from others.
- @shupinderk @chrisburkard I know that passing message to @justinbieber is not a big deal for you. But with your helping initiate my dream will become true. So please help me or make my dream true.
- @Laurenwardle My dad was in a wheelchair for a year or two before he passed. It was a relief when we found places he could access to enjoy the calming affects of nature. Granted these places have high footfall because of the accessibility, but it was nice to allow him to enjoy the same views of the able footed. He didn’t feel as disabled by his condition. So I feel at major attractions efforts should be made to integrate access with minimum disruption to the natural environment. I have seen it done both beautifully and with poor taste. In saying that I would not at all advocate making everything accessible, it is not possible to tame wilderness for wheelchairs! If it wasn’t for my dad I would never have seen how important it is to get into nature no matter who you are or what your abilities are.
- @Reestalteri I think wilderness over access predominantly, but I believe there should be some access that’s easily accomplished. The access certainly doesn’t have to be in all places, but I think everyone should be able to enjoy some wonders of our spectacular world. Having said that, it should be done wisely and prudently. Social media has exposed me to so many of these wilderness places, that I’m never going to see. I thoroughly enjoy getting a peek into places around the globe, and in my own backyard. Your spectacular photo, of an extraordinarily beautiful place, took my breath away! I used to have to look in coffee table book, magazines such as National Geographic etc. to get small tastes of these photos. Now, they’re at my fingertips.
- @Brodyleven Thanks for asking this, especially publicly. Wilderness–with a capital W or not–is limited. It is a finite natural resource which, once tampered with through a single bad decision-maker, can be destroyed. We support the automobile industry–creating new cars, photographing them boosting their popularity–but they require a finite natural resource of their own. The difference here is that our oil reserves are tanked, we will have affordable, practical, and infinite resources to replace them with: solar-powered electric cars, for example. With Wilderness, though, there is no replacement. We’ve been given a finite resource. There are only so many acres of undeveloped land on the planet we’ve taken over. Once we choose to develop previously-undeveloped land, we forever change what was once wilderness. There’s no going back. It was all wilderness, once upon a time. Now we’ve been given America’s Best Idea, and have willingly chosen areas to protect. I was just in Uganda, and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, their NPS, does the same. It’s important to all of humanity. People may say we need to develop more land in order to move forward as a society. I’d say, to those people, that if we are as advanced as we claim to be, we should be able to progress without destroying natural resources. 2) I use social media to share my experiences and inspire others to make their own. I don’t expect people to go anywhere or do anything that I do. I would, however, expect social media influencers like yourself to do EXACTLY what you do: if you’re going to show and write about these wild places, there is an inherent responsibility to discuss the importance and ways to protect them.
- @Obstinated 1) I believe that in life everything is about balance. While it’s great to have trails and easier access to beautiful sights, it does disturb our natural surroundings. So I feel we should have trails, but limit our use so not everything is easily accessible. For example in Yosemite National Park, it’s great that they don’t have a road going directly to the top; you have to hike up there if you want to see it from the top. But there is still a trail that does cut through some of the forest. For such a popular and famous place like this, though, this is absolutely necessary because without the trail, people would make their own way up there regardless and end up causing more damage by creating little trails everywhere instead of just sticking to a set trail.
- @Akfreckles @chrisburkard
thank you for addressing the issue. The Wilderness Act of 1964 recognizes wilderness as “an area where the earth and it’s community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor and does not remain.” Development of our finite resource, wilderness, comes at a price. As an environmental permitter in Alaska, I can tell you, we don’t coexist. Access creates light pollution, noise, traffic, air pollution, solid waste, and more, at the expense of an otherwise healthy ecosystem. Alaskan Natives have value sets that include Sense of Place. Being able to look out over the land and recognize features give you a sense of place and connection to the land. Many in our world don’t comprehend this concept. But those who live off the land and cope with its changes are resilient but concerned with the rapid pace of access and the industrialization that comes with it. Though, on the flip side, who am I to say that someone who lost their legs on an IED and served our country shouldn’t experience the wonderment and purity that I can in the backcountry? Is it privilege that gets me to the back country or is it a right I exercise?
- @Crumpetnips @chrisburkard
Coming from a remote island in Alaska (kodiak) and having explored a lot of BC and the PNW I mull these questions over a lot. I go back and forth between abject selfishness and general wish to share these special places. For the first question I lean toward expense of access, but I think there’s a balance to be reached. In my ideal world there would be one or two wheelchair accessible trails in a general wilderness area and the majority of the trails would include treacherous footing, rock scrambling and tricky peaks, not for the faint-hearted. I feel that anything worth it in this world is worth working hard for, and the harder wilderness is to access the safer it is from destruction. That encompasses the allure and the payoff. For the second question : social media is a dangerous tool when used incorrectly. Geo tagging can be hazardous and hurts the pristine nature of these places. I understand the urge to share beauty, but if done with reckless abandon you ruin what you once admired.
- @Mommasmosaic 1) I think maybe there’s a better question. Access to public lands should be open and available to everyone. Access means “to approach or enter.” Yes, every public land in the wilderness should be open to all. The question you really seem to want answered is whether or not the wilderness should be developed. If you are speaking about backcountry wilderness, then my answer is no. But, do I think that accessibility for these experiences in the wilderness areas are important. It’s much more likely that someone will be moved to protect what they have experienced in real life. So, as others have mentioned, if accessibility can be done sustainably and safely, why would you want to keep your neighbors out?
2) Social Media is a double edged sword. It provides exposure, which helps people see the beauty worth protecting and also brings lots of people to the area exceeding these special places’ capacity. It also provides education from social media influencers to the public about best practices in the wild, and exposes when people do not follow best practices.
- @Lkshmisrikanta 1. Access, when done right, doesn’t necessarily tamper, but rather makes the wilderness more observable. People need to understand why it is important preservation is vital and that can only happen through observation. 2. Social media helps spread knowledge and awareness on preservation. This in turn helps in gaining support in funding and others (volunteering, campaigns etc).