So I’ve been in the UK for more than a month now, and though I’ve mostly just been in Cambridge (Saturday lectures T.T), I have had the opportunity to go out the past two Sundays (14 and 21 October) with the Hill-Walking Club (CUHWC) and the Mountaineering Club (CUMC) respectively to Peak District.
With CUHWC, we walked from Edale to Hayfield (via Mam Tor), and with CUMC we mostly stayed at Burbage North to climb. But one thing was obvious, no matter where we were. There are lots of families with young kids, among other couples/senior citizens hiking/climbing as well.
Perhaps it’s because the UK has a lot more outdoor areas than in Singapore, or perhaps because the people here are just much more tuned in to the environment and know of Nature deficit disorder. Or perhaps, it’s just biased sampling on my part, and that most city dwellers don’t go outdoors either, and those I see are the minority (just like in Singapore).
There is just something highly therapeutic about going outdoors and taking a breath of fresh air, and instantly, worries and stresses are cast aside, that I think most people have yet to discover. Maybe once people realise that it’s as vital as sanitation, they (and their respective governments) will come to appreciate and value it more and keep outdoor, natural spaces as it is and not convert it into agriculture/commercial/residential areas.
Perhaps because the Brits have been going outdoors and for overseas exploration for a much longer time than Singaporeans have been, but they seem to consider more about their ethical social impact of going overseas. Not saying that Singaporean’s don’t think about that at all; I believe some do, but by and large, especially when it’s large swathes of school children sent overseas to do something adventure-y/outdoors-y, ethics is hardly thought of. Also, not saying that all Brits always take the ethical path, but more awareness seems to be created on it.
I attended a talk a few weeks ago (been attending many, just barely having time to blog about the more thought-provoking ones), titled ‘Moving Mountains: Voluntourism, progressive development & a lifetime of adventure’ by Gavin Bate, founder of the Moving Mountains Trust and also of Adventure Alternatives, an adventure company.
I will spare the details of the talk (which was about how he got started on his charity and how he developed his own ethical business model and is trying to get more adventure companies to be ethical as well) here, and blog it separately (if and when I get around to doing it :/). What I want to mention though, is how he talked about the adventure industry being exploitative, cos you’re usually going to developing countries like Nepal, Tanzania, Kenya etc where labour is relatively cheap (and there are few, if any, labour laws), so companies can often earn a high profit margin by charging high amounts for adventure trips while paying the local staff (porters, guides, cooks etc) very little. Something that I can understand, having gone on such “adventure holidays” before.
He also talked about how many foreigners (from relatively wealthier countries) go to developing countries (e.g. Nepal, Indonesia) and try to help, but more often than not it’s not long term or sustainable or really helping where help is needed most. Something which I can also understand and relate to, having been on a few overseas service learning trips over the years.
There’s a lot about the social impact of going overseas to do stuff, about the impact on local culture, sustainability and being fair to the indigenous people. It’s not just about self discovery, pushing yourself to the limits and what not. It should go beyond that, to thinking about environmental impact, social impact, culture stuff, and trying to minimise any damage you may do.
I don’t know how coherent I am, it being 5/6am here in UK when I’m writing this, but I think the point is clear. Enjoy the great outdoors (while we still have it!), and get more people to enjoy it too; but spare a thought for the indigenous people and the environment while you’re enjoying yourself. If everyone treated others (and the environment) the way they wanted to be treated themselves, the world will be a much better place for it!