I would like to start by saying that I personally and strongly support the #LeaveNoTrace movement. I am NOT trying to minimize the progress they have made in helping to better preserve the outdoors, specifically our nature preserves. Remaining aware of our personal and collective footprint that we leave on this earth is valuable and something I firmly stand behind.
I simply want to expound on opposing arguments to present some viewpoints that might be worth considering. I’ll be taking a stance that I do not necessarily agree with, and arguing in its favor.
Also, I’d like to announce that theDIHEDRAL is now on Facebook! If you’d like to interact with us a bit more, check out what the team is up to, or strike up a conversation with us in messages, click here to like our page! It definitely helps us out.
Lastly, I’ve taken the liberty of abbreviating “Leave No Trace” to LNT. IPIWDITAE.
LNT is an organization and movement that has set the standard for outdoor recreation, and how we are to eliminate our impact as we engage in outdoor activity. They have been working since 1994 with their Seven Main Principles to protect the nature and wildlife that remains on the planet. Here are some of the most popular criticisms against its existence.
People take #LeaveNoTrace waaaaay overboard.
Anyone who is covering their tracks with the amount of effort it takes to TRULY leave no trace is NOT someone I want to get caught up with. You’d have to be some kind of criminal to want to move through the woods that discreetly. If you see someone covering up their footprints in the woods, REPORT THEM. It may sound silly, but some people take the words “Leave No Trace” to be literal. This isn’t necessarily the stance of the actually LNT organization, but that doesn’t stop these zealous naturalists from holding their friends (and anyone else near them) to their own high standards.
The fact is, a person who can move through any natural environment without leaving any impression has never lived on this Earth. We leave a trace, and we always will. If you REALLY subscribe to true LNT principles, you just shouldn’t go outside in the first place.
So the expert criminal I referenced above is running from the police. He somehow manages to cross a huge forest without stepping on a single blade of grass, and without disturbing any wildlife. He hasn’t stepped on an ant, and he hasn’t scared any birds from their nests. (He really cares about the environment, so he takes the saying “Leave No Trace” seriously) At this point, he’s going through so much trouble, that turning himself in and serving the time might be easier.
It’s getting late, so he lays his body down on a flat, smooth boulder. He’s careful not to crush a dandelion leaning against his newfound bed, soaking up the last bit of light from the setting sun. Shutting his eyes, he wonders why the boulder is so smooth. Then it hits him. The sound of rushing water meets his ears as his eyes snap open.
A river is about 100 feet to his right. He’ll have to find another place to sleep. The LNT guidelines require that he must sleep outside of a 200-foot radius from a water source. He doesn’t see any other smooth rocks around, and he can’t lay down on a bed of fresh grass and risk a disturbance.
Guess he’ll have to keep moving. And that takes us to our next criticism.
LNT principles are simply unrealistic. They aren’t making a very big difference, and in some ways, they are just downright pointless.
“Pack it in Pack it Out” is a large part of leaving no trace. This one takes things a bit too far. Of course, we should pick up our trash, but this rule also mandates that we pack out all fluids, extra food, and papers as well. Haven’t you ever heard of a compost bin? I want to throw my apple core into the woods, and some lucky squirrel would probably LOVE to have it.
Even if a squirrel doesn’t get to indulge itself in that sugary goodness, the plants growing in the area would love the soil it enriches as it quickly decomposes. By this standard, does an apple tree violate the LNT principles when it’s apples drop off to grow into more trees on the ground? If I packed myself a delicious granny smith apple and decided to throw it next to a conveniently placed granny smith apple tree after I have finished eating it, have I really harmed the environment? According to the LNT website, I have.
Do we really need to be this strict with the things we can or can’t leave behind after camping?
There seems to be a bit of hypocrisy, as the people who subscribe to LNT are parking their cars in parking lots paved over where trees used to be. Roads, power lines, and constructions cut their way into the national parks so that hikers, tourists, and (yes, even climbers) can enjoy the beautiful terrain.
Whether or not you are following the LNT principles, do you think the manufacturer of your North Face Jacket leaves a trace? Probably. It might feel good to imagine that you’re “just a part of the landscape” as you take a day hike into the mountains, but all your expensive equipment screams otherwise. Stop holding others to a high standard, when you don’t follow that standard in the first place.
Maybe we really only have two options. We either forget our rules and just do what we want with the Earth, or we stop expanding, stop having offspring, and stop going outside at all.
I want to know where you stand. Feel free to refute any of these points below. Bring it!
Click here to check out the Official LNT Principles including the ones I mentioned in the blog.
If you feel strongly, consider volunteering with Leave No Trace. You can check out some awesome opportunities HERE.
Don’t forget to share! I look forward to hearing from all of you!