The reports keep pouring in, now on an almost daily basis. In just a few days at Yellowstone National Park, the following happened:
• Some folks put a bison into their SUV because the calf looks cold and could use a cup of hot chocolate.
• Wannabe Youtube brats decide it would be cool to just walk onto the Grand Prismatic Spring.
It’s not even “just American stupidity,” the idiots above are from Canada and last year, asshats from The Netherlands and Germany were fined for dropping their drones into the hot springs and Lake Yellowstone.
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Doug and I had a conversation about this earlier today on our Slack channel and here is the sort of summary of that:
Mathias: If we’d write about it this would be my article headline: “this is what’s wrong with the pornographic glorification” of the term ‘wilderness’. Just because it’s wilderness doesn’t mean you can be wild.
Wilderness can’t be a place for you to be an asshole.
Doug: I’d argue that there is can be wilderness. All of these incidents occur hundreds of feet from a road. It is the instant gratification of being able to claim wilderness experiences and not knowing what it is. Pornographic glorification of wilderness is spot on though. Getting off trail to take selfies happens mostly in tourist areas.
We used to call it the Disney-fication of wilderness, but that term doesn’t work anymore.
Mathias: Weird. Because it sort of is the opposite. In Disneyland you wouldn’t dare to just jump a fence or go beyond a posted signs.
Doug: Well, the old term goes to personification of animals, but was later applied to represent a naive view of how nature works.
Mathias: You don’t go to Disneyland you hang your dick out.
(Glad we’re in agreement here!)
Mathias: I am describing the notion of going into the wild and hanging your boobs out and posting it on Instagram. If a ranger would catch you fu$%&ing in your tent or skinny dipping…
Is that okay?
It’s still indecent exposure and you could get fined, right?
Doug: Correct. Well, not in a tent. I think that is allowed and maybe encouraged?
Mathias: But the underlying notion is that once I’m in the wild, the normal rules don’t apply to me anymore.
That’s the main draw why we go.
Here’s my question: Has social media increased the stupidity or just surfaced it?
Doug: It has only surfaced it. Back in the 80s, I remember hearing about people putting their kids on bison for pictures. This level of idiocy is nothing new, there are just more people now.
Mathias: Exactly my point. So, we can’t blame millennials or social media for this.
More people, more cameras, more stupidity.
“The wilderness game is changing”
And How will the National Park services deal with it?
Another question: What is worse? Taking your dog into the wilderness or walking on wildflowers?
Doug: Both. haha
Mathias: Yeah, but you usually don’t see flame wars about dogs on mountain peaks… only millennials with GoPros get shit thrown at them.
Doug: Because people with dogs can justify their behavior because “dogs!”
What I am trying to say is: The conversation needs to shift.
The parks and other wilderness areas are really really popular right now and the NPS is completely overwhelmed by it.
Doug: True. Does the shift of responsibility need to go to the retailers who are profiting off of it?
Mathias: Well, they are clearly promoting that “instagram-life”. So, that is definitely a party that needs to be considered. In what way, I don’t know.
I mean, even the tobacco industry barely was able to be held accountable.
Doug: Yeah. Fu$%&ing soulless entities in it for profits above everything else
Mathias: REI is not soulless, just powerless. They can’t own the park, they can only promote the lifestyle.
If they would own it, they’d take care of it.
Doug: Not saying REI is soulless, just a lot of other companies create an outdoor appeal for their market with zero responsibility toward promoting good stewardship. The problem with this is that it covers more than just a store or an individual. It is an always existing societal problem.
Mathias: Correct. The feeling of independence/invincibility creates carelessness.
It’s about ownership. But this is a big nebulous word that no one understands. And by parks being federally managed they sort of belong to all of us and at the same time to no one.
The idea that going into the outdoors is putting everyday responsibilities behind and letting it all go is freeing. However, it creates challenges that, with the growing interest in the outdoors, is not something we know how to address.
More rules, more citations, more rangers is not the answer. We can’t start a war on outdoor enthusiasts. We know how those ‘war on’ battles go.
Perhaps we need to reconsider what being in the wilderness means. We’re not alone out there anymore. Our actions do truly make an impact and are increasingly seen by the world. Not only due to the fact that we post them online. In a way, it feels like social media creates a fail safe into that scenario. The idiots want to brag about their actions and are being caught, over and over again. This isn’t the last incident of 2016. This could be just the start.
This conversation will continue, it’s not even Summer yet, just wait until the snow melts at Paradise.