Is Escaping the Urban Jungle to the Wilderness Good for the Wilderness?

Here’s an interesting question to ponder: You want to escape life in the city and take a break. You jump in your car, or on a plane, and head out to “the unspoiled environment” to relax and “be at one with your surroundings.” Ask yourself, is this any good for that unspoiled environment?

New research published in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that consumers who are nurturing the romantic notion of escaping to nature are often harming that very same environment by their presence and activity.

“Nature is often considered the ideal place to escape from everyday life. Consumers enjoy romantic escapes from culture in contexts as diverse as surfing, tropical island holidays, and the Burning Man festival. But by viewing nature as simply the opposite of culture, consumers often expedite the destruction of the experiences of nature they desire most,” write authors Robin Canniford (University of Melbourne) and Avi Shankar (University of Bath).

Destroying the Environment as we Try to Escape into it
A sunset over the Maldives, yet, how long until this image is strewn with floating refuse?

Packing Your Regulations With you

Escaping the modelled-constructed-formulated pattern of reality often requires an escape to what you deem the opposite; nature, wilderness, environment. However, by virtue of the increasing number of people hoping to escape that formulated-regulated lifestyle, they’re forcing that same restriction on their holiday destination.

Take the Maldives for example. Often viewed as one of the most isolated and paradise-like locations on the planet, the increase in tourism has increased the amount of waste washing up on the islands, polluting the crystal blue seas the selfsame tourists came to lose themselves in.

Take a journey south to Australia, and go surfing on the Gold Coast of Queensland, and you’ll see clusters of coppers wandering the beaches to protect against the ever-increasing spate of violence that has grown as the tourist populations have grown.

Awareness of the Fragility

There are some consumers well aware of the fragility of nature, and they’re often the ones looking for the ecologically friendly consumer technologies.

“Rather than seeking to merely hide the fact that nature and culture are interdependent, consumers seek to advance practices that leave nature as untouched as possible. Demand for eco-friendly products offers an opportunity for outdoor equipment manufacturers and tourism service providers to help consumers enjoy nature in less damaging ways,” the authors conclude.

How long until every rainforest is littered with waste?

Selfishness & Greed: the Paradox

Humans, however, are the problem on every level. We often hear “The world is doomed! This warming will destroy our planet!” when the simple reality is, “No it won’t; it’ll simply destroy us.” We’re so selfish we indoctrinate ourselves into thinking we’re the only thing that matters: escape reality by taking that reality somewhere else and force it down the throat of a location that had no need of regulation, recycling or prevention until we arrived.

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals via Science Daily
Image Source: Diana/Markiza on Flickr & Ben Beiske on Flickr

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