“We need the tonic of wildness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable”. – Henry David Thoreau
So just like the birds and the bees, the reefs and the trees it is us that need wild places. That tonic of wildness. And perhaps this is why so many of us are heading into the wild more often than ever before. Travelling alone or with those we love, by foot or by vehicle, there is something inexplicable that draws us.
For many of us day to day life is frenetic, the way of our world today. Switching off and slowing down is easier said than done. The wild can be our sanctuary. An escape from daily responsibilities. The activities of exploration and camping can take our focus completely and render us in an almost zen like state.
As the places we seek continue to vanish at an astonishing rate, now is the time for more tonic. By heading to wild places we grow their value. In this world where decisions are based on numbers, we can assist by going camping. It’s a simple equation. When the value of removing wildness is outweighed by the value of keeping it, the decision becomes easy.
The value of the wild is diverse, however it’s the measurable and commercial aspects that can offer immediacy in regards to protection. For instance, our iconic Great Barrier Reef is a perfect example of tourism worth. The reef’s tourism value is what is driving the fight for its preservation at a large scale.
When we enjoy these places it is important that we care for them and minimise our impact at the same time. If we aim to share our practical tips within our networks, educate the young as well as those new to camping then this will go a long way.
As Australians we are lucky to have some of the most remote wild places on earth. To steward these areas for future generations is a great honour and a responsibility for us all.
The great thing is it’s relatively simple to minimise our impact, so let’s pull together to educate and influence. Let’s be positive in our messaging. Let’s share the new good news stories of the untouched landscapes and pristine campsites that we all seek.
Having a common language can be a powerful tool of influence. Leave No Trace are a worldwide non-profit organisation focussed on environmental education. They are as close to a world standard as we have.
Leave No Trace have a philosophy of 7 principles:
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimise Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Your Hosts and Other Visitors
They are a guide and it’s an inclusive approach of encouraging people to do the best they can as often as they can. As people become more competent in the outdoors their Leave No Trace skills usually develop as well.
It is not uncommon for people to hold questions up against these principles. And it’s exciting to see people use them as a toolbox to work out considered answers to varied questions. Whether we are in the Snowy Mountains or the Simpson Desert our challenges may be different and having a guide to being able to make decisions that will minimise our impact is helpful.
For many minimal impact camping becomes part of the fun, almost like a strange kind of camp ninja. Keeping it fun is key. Gently influencing our fellow campers by striking a balance between idealism and pragmatism may be the best approach.
One of the benefits of a nation of campers that can leave no trace is access. With scarce resources many areas are closed simply because there are inadequate resources to manage them. If we can look after the tracks, light fires responsibly and carry out our rubbish, then there is less land management required.
Wild places are our escape. They are the places we create memories that will never fade. They are home to our grandest adventures. We need our tonic of wildness. We need our wilderness.