I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie.
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Scott Robertson
(SRPhotographic) - F
I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie. on 12/27/2006 18:25:13 MST Print View

I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie. I buy fair-trade when I can and take my time to educate others about the steps they can take to reduce their impact on the earth. "Plastic bags okay?" Heck no!
"Would you like a styrofoam to-go box for that?" No thank you, my stomach is a better doggie-bag than any box you can chuck at me.

However, I also love to travel and experience new places that the earth has to show me. I want to live my life learning and breaking every single jaded perspective I have locked up in my noggin. I want to argue about the importance of life with every person I meet in life, from the poorest bum to the most affluent sommelier.

Herein lies the problem. Traveling as an industry is a major cause of damage to the earth. Jets that burn trillions of gallons of oil-based fuel every day and the hotels and attractions that impregnate the earth are not to be excluded.

This conundrum is why I have come to UL backpacking to travel the earth as planned without relying on earth-damaging technologies simply for the sake of sloth and comfort. I can greatly reduce my impact on the planet and have the same, if not better, experiences as the frequent-flier staying at the Holiday Inn.

I don't like the idea of "survival technique" because it isolates the wilderness as a ominous entity festooned with death traps. Asbestos, trans fats, DDT, cars, lung cancer, sky-scrapers, and nuclear warheads are the most frightening things I can think of on the spot. Coincidentally, they are all man-made.

Living in today's barcode and drive-thru world requires more "survival technique" each day. I hate to tag the term to the great outdoors- it is just unfair; the earth gives us everything we need to survive and then some. This fact is why you will never hear me speak of my "survival techniques" but rather my excellent "living techniques".

I believe that backpackers, bicyclists, and other breeds of tree-huggers are a special breed of people who realise that the earth is not conquerable and that if we as a people try to bend the land to our will, it will inevitably take humankind down with it. I often wonder why so many of us that practice sustainable living keep our mouths shut when we witness our peers' blatant disregard for the earth. I am tactful more often than not, but I have been trying to enlighten my friends, my family, and finally complete strangers on ways they too can learn to love the earth.

Therefore, I challenge you to test yourself; what hiker doesn't like a good challenge? The next time you have an opportunity to make those around you more earth-minded, take it. Offer to teach your next dinner host the benefits of hand-washing dishes. Take empty copy-paper boxes at the office and turn them into recycling bins for soda cans and unused paper scraps. Discuss the benefits of drip-watering a garden with your neighbor who normally uses a sprinkler system. Do anything that can spread love for the earth. It sounds cheesy, but it is the only way that we, the dirty hippies, can convert more people to our mad ways.

Ernie Elkins
(EarthDweller)

Locale: North Carolina
I have no desire to be a dirty hippy, but... on 12/27/2006 19:45:50 MST Print View

Your enthusiasm is inspiring, Scott. UL backpacking is a great way to discover the joy of simplicity, and simplicity is something that our culture could use a lot more of. I'll disagree with you on one point, though -- I'm pretty sure that a carefully loaded dishwasher is more efficient than handwashing.

Edited by EarthDweller on 12/27/2006 19:54:18 MST.

Matthew Petty
(mpetty) - F
re on 12/28/2006 08:22:18 MST Print View

Because it uses less water? It certainly uses quite a bit more electric energy which usually comes from coal burning plants.

Ernie Elkins
(EarthDweller)

Locale: North Carolina
Re: re on 12/28/2006 12:15:05 MST Print View

Here are a few addresses for further info about hand-washing vs. using a dishwasher:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/08/dishwasher_vs_h.php

http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/dishwashers.htm

http://www.waterwise.org.uk/reducing_water_wastage_in_the_uk/house_and_garden/washing_up_at_home.html

Although there are a lot of variables involved, the general consensus appears to be that, when properly loaded, dishwashers save water AND energy for the average user.

Edited by EarthDweller on 12/28/2006 12:15:50 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Environmentalism? on 12/28/2006 13:52:19 MST Print View

I've been thinking about many of these topics at great length lately and have come to some conclusions that make me really question many of the assumptions we make about UL/SUL backpacking and the environment. The fairly recent thread, I believe titled " SUL and Environment" had some enlightening ideas in it.

RANT WARNING

As backpackers, we let ourselves off the hook too easily. There are many assumtions about UL/SUL that are not really getting addressed fully. In a preceding post "simplicity" is mentioned. I have spoken of the same "simplicity" of UL backpacking to many friends as well. But is it really that simple? Maybe the pack you shoulder at the trailhead is full of rather simple implements, but was it simple getting there? Look at the discussion on these boards; case studies, scientific investigations/product reviews, and endless scrutiny of objects and materials. Don't get me wrong, I love it (or I am obsessed with it) but it's certainly not that "simple". What ever happened to the days when we all had only one of everything? I certainly started like this and had many, many, great days in the mountains. One good bag, an external frame pack that will last 20 years (if not more), the old trusted tent, etc. There were no spreadsheets, calculators, and digital scales when preparing for a trip- you just packed what you had and left. This was simplicity.

How many of us have 3 stoves now? 5 stoves anyone? Anybody have more than 4 sleep systems/shelters? (All neatly categorized, of course, by weight, temperature, terrain, expected rainfall, desired speed of travel, etc.) At least 75% of the content on this site is about "stuff"- new stuff, old stuff, better stuff, lighter stuff, which stuff you NEED...

Generally speaking, environmental degradation is fueled by an ever-increasing mass of people demanding an ever- increasing amount of stuff. And yes, backpackers included. While our packweights may be getting surprisingly low, this practice meshes with our hyper-consumer culture suspiciously well. Better. Lighter. Faster. Newer. Polargaurd HV vs. 3D vs. Delta. How fast must we go, how light must we get, how much new stuff will be enough? Are we turning nature into a giant gear test? Somehow UL/SUL is more environmentally enlightened? Why?

News Flash: SilNylon, state-of-the-art DWR's, and Primaloft are not organic. Take a look into the companies behind the manufacturing of these materials/chemicals. Stewards of the environment? Don't think so.
As I plan for an upcoming trip and pour over gear lists on the computer, I'm about to order some SilNylon/Epic yardage
for a new bivy and am considering a new cooking system (Firelite SUL 500 + BPL Ti Esbit stove). I could save 8 oz. over my current gear with the changes. I can also take pleasure that I am helping burn who knows how many pounds of jet and diesel fuel to get my sub-10 oz. package shipped across the country. What would UPS do without us??? Environmentally speaking, this is beginning to border upon the absurd. 8 ounce savings???
Stop!!! Enough!!!!
I'm not trying to put down the UL packing ethic or insult anyone (this is as much a critique of myself as the community), but I think we really need to see it for what it is. The mere fact you carry a 10 lb. pack through the woods doesn't mean you're doing ANYTHING for said woods. In fact, if we keep "upgrading", our purchasing decisions are only doing more to hurt the environment.

I ask, I wonder, when will it be enough?

Timothy Cristy
(tcristy) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie. on 12/28/2006 14:07:01 MST Print View

Asbestos is a naturally-ocurring fibrous mineral. It is mined, not man-made.

Trans fats also occur in nature. Sure, the cooking oils have a lot more due to processing, but they are naturally in meat and dairy products.

Lorraine Pace
(SowthEfrikan) - F
Re: I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie. on 12/28/2006 15:00:38 MST Print View

And DDT is a lot less scarey than mosquitos.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie on 12/28/2006 15:36:14 MST Print View

It seems there are a couple of things to think about.

One is our environmental impact as consumers. This is probably best looked at as a total. How much total stuff we buy, traveling we do, energy we use, etc... Not how much of that stuff we carry into the woods at any given time. Like Craig said, any gear in the closet still counts for environmental impact. But as Scott pointed out, driving/flying/hotel style travel is probably worse than UL backpacking gear.

The other is our impact in promoting environmental values. This includes things like trying to influence our friends (as Scott mentioned), lobbying politicians, letters to the editor, voting for environmentally friendly policies, donations, activism, etc... There are all sorts of ways to get involved in environmental causes, and backpackers (particularly ones that carry cameras), are well placed to lobby for the wildernesses they spend time in.

I think we need to consider both. And as a plus side, since environmental work doesn't tend to make one rich, the more you do, the less money you have, and the less extraneous stuff you will tend to acquire...

-Erin
www.aktrekking.com/pebble/

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Re: I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie. on 12/28/2006 15:36:29 MST Print View

And DDT is a lot less scarey than mosquitos.

I live in a region with a lot of mosquitos and don't find them overly scarey.

Granted, mosquitos are a vector for west nile disease, malaria and encephalitis, which are scarey and from Lorraine's BPL login id one might guess she is from a place where those would be real concerns.

But the word less is a relative term and there's a lot of room for DDT to be very scarey and still be less so than malaria. There are other ways being used successfully to attack mosquitos.

Ernie Elkins
(EarthDweller)

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Environmentalism? on 12/28/2006 15:53:37 MST Print View

I doubt that any of us truly believe that we're somehow helping the environment by carrying lighter packs. However, my point with regard to simplicity is that UL backpacking encourages us to think seriously about what we DON'T need. If we simply substitute one light item for every heavy item, nothing has really changed. But when we start questioning whether or not we need certain items at all, then we're getting somewhere.

Edited by EarthDweller on 12/28/2006 15:54:13 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Environmentalism? on 12/28/2006 16:49:50 MST Print View

Ernie, I think you're definently right in terms of UL backpacking teaching what we can go without, and going without is certainly a way of reducing the stress we place on our surroundings.
However, so much of this UL/SUL thing is unfortunately about simply trading a heavy one for a light one. Unless we're delving into wilderness survival (going w/o gear), anyone trying to shave any substantial weight off their back starts with a new shelter, a new bag, a new pack, a new...
And if you think you're done and have the best, next year's will only be lighter. Just wait until nanotech hits the outdoor gear market! Going light (from a gear perspective) becomes yet another never-ending quest for more, albeit light, stuff. Ahh, the irony.

Scott Robertson
(SRPhotographic) - F
looking back on it... on 12/28/2006 19:56:36 MST Print View

Looking over your responses, I have some refinements to make.

First, when speaking of UL backpacking being better for the earth, I didn't mean that it is better than regular backpacking. I meant that it was better than something along the lines of taking a tram tour of Yellowstone, or visiting one of many "nature parks" that are actually glorified zoos filled with concrete; if you've ever been to one of those "drive-though bears of the world" gimmicks then you know what I'm talking about.

Secondly, I realise that the products that UL backpacking materials are made from are, for the most part, not earth-friendly. The only things I can think of that I own are my socks (made from organic fair-trade wool and recycled polyester), my hat and gloves (made from fair-trade organic wool), and most of the food I pack (ClifBars are my saving grace). Yes, most of the products we buy are made from refined oil, but there ARE a few alternatives.

Another comment that caught my eye was about UL backpacking playing on our capitalistic fantasies. This, unfortunately, is mostly true as well. Coming to UL backpacking from road cycling, I know what it is like to be surrounded by those obsessed with every gram. (As a side note, people in both cycling and UL backpacking rarely stop to consider the fact that most of them could easily and healthily lose 10lbs of body weight without spending a dime.) I am starting backpacking ultralight, so I plan to buy the gear I need and be content. In some cases, UL is cheaper anyhow.

It is kind of sad to see 1819 threads in the "gear" section and only 57 threads in the "trip reports" section. That, if anything, speaks to our disillusionment about backpacking as ULers. I have yet to go on my first real UL backpacking trip, but as soon as I begin, I plan to make an effort to balance the trip report section with the gear section. Is that not what backpacking is about, the trip? It really isn't where you go or where you came from, it's about the journey.

Lastly, to those of you who thought it would appropriate to contest my examples about dishwashing and asbestos, I'm afraid you've completely missed my point. Bear in mind that I'm not a research scientist nor claim to be. If you think you can go back and consider my first post as a whole instead of picking it apart, please repost something worthwhile. If you can't, don't post at all.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
new forum section; 'eco-light' on 12/28/2006 20:31:55 MST Print View

Scott, I agree with you. This site helps people minimize one parameter of their gear, and that parameter is not environmental impact; it is of course weight. So any reduction in environmental impact would either be an additional requirement of the individual (like some of our posters), or happen by chance.

My environmental impact regarding this segment of my life has increased dramatically since I went UL; now I have multiples of everything, bought to gain incremental savings in weight. Remember the total enviromental footpring of a piece of gear is not just the item itself, but all life-cycle resource expenditures, from driving the gear designer to work in the morning, to disposing of the gear in some landfill.

To discuss this somewhat different meaning of 'light' I suggest we start a new forum section called 'eco-light' or something, where those so inclined can discuss 'light' gear where light refers to its environmental impact. This would allow the applicability, and audience of this site to expand; Ryan et. al., good idea?

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: new forum section; 'eco-light' on 12/28/2006 20:50:13 MST Print View

Brett - I think that's a neat idea, at least in theory. However, I'd wonder about the practicality. How many of us actually know anything about the relative environmental impact of different ultralight fabrics? I'd love to read these things, but would be quite unable to contribute anything useful.

Scott - I'm not sure a relative lack of "trip report" threads says much of anything about whether people are actually taking trips. Gear threads can be a practical sort of thing. For example, there are only so many different rain coat fabrics and styles out there - other folks probably have suggestions/advice/experience that could influence one's choice of rain coat.
But possible trips? Innumerable. Trip reports are pretty much mind candy - fun to read when we're stuck indoors. But they don't tend to generate much discussion. Nothing against them though - I love trip reports, and post them all the time on my own website.

-Erin
www.aktrekking.com

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: looking back on it... on 12/28/2006 20:53:48 MST Print View

Scott,

Interesting reading

For many the closest these people will ever get to experiencing the outdoors is that “tram tour of Yellowstone” and for that we should all be grateful. Grateful in that for all those less fortunate (for what ever reason that they are unable to share in the back country experience like us) our still are interested in our Nation Parks and Wilderness. And only through their involvement can we all hope to preserve such places.

You speak of “Earth Friendly” but did you also consider the people sewing our packs sleeping bags and jackets in some of these far off countries and what about their work conditions not to mention economics.

Kudos’ on your 10lb solution to Super Ultra-light Backpacking… The most obvious and cost effective solution for all gram counters.

He Who Dies With The Most Gear….. Is still Worm Food!

Regards

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
flying on 12/29/2006 01:27:54 MST Print View

If I didn't fly to do a much wanted trip
then I would be morbid for a long time
(the rest of my life actually)
and that same plane would take off with one empty seat.

Unfortunately, the only solution to the use of fossil fuels
is running out of the stuff. I hope planes can fly on corn oil !

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: looking back on it... on 12/29/2006 06:58:18 MST Print View

Scott,

The general sense of your first post is dead on right. We live in a very large bubble and in the long run we're much better off if we reduce our overall footprint on that environment to sustainable levels.

However, some of the replies about your details are also not incorrect. Reducing our footprint requires making choices that truely do have a lighter footprint. That requires "getting it right" about the footprint of our activites ... not how they "feel" but how they actually "are".

One principle from UL packing that could help us start on that is to start on the "big three" first (or four or five or ...).

But this is a topic for another forum.

Edited by jcolten on 12/29/2006 07:02:51 MST.

Lorraine Pace
(SowthEfrikan) - F
Re: I like nature- I am a dirty, crunchy, organic-eating, bike-riding hippie. on 12/29/2006 07:59:17 MST Print View

Best-selling novelist Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain) gave this speech several years ago on the religion of environmentalism (as opposed to the science of environmentalism).

I remember as a child being told that we would have dark, polluted skies and be on the brink of extinction right now, today, because the world would be used up, ruined and overpopulated. Oh, and while I sat in class teacher told it was the coming of a new ice age. Now its global warming.

Weeeeellllll ... same song, different generation. Been there, done it, still backpacking on the planet and discovering no trace.

http://www.michaelcrichton.net/speeches/speeches_quote05.html

... for a sane, rather than mad, point of view. Lengthy, but worth it. I think his words about "they believe their way is the right way, everyone else is wrong; they are in the business of salvation, and they want to help you to see things the right way. They want to help you be saved" is so on the nail.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: Michael Crichton on 12/29/2006 12:29:35 MST Print View

Are all environmentalists infallibly correct in their predictions, never overstating anything? Of course not. However, there are a few things I'd like to point out here.

First of all, Michael Crichton is a novelist, not a scientist. Which gives him no more or less credibility than any of us.
He spends much of his time in the speech debunking the myth of the noble savage. This is completely irrelevant to current environmental debates over global warming, soil degredation, overfishing, etc...
Then he proceeds to make a number of one liner claims about the environment - assuring us he has evidence, but never citing anything. Beleiving him on this basis would be just as irrational and "faith-based" as the environmental "religion" he purports to be arguing against.

Secondly, predictions of environmental futures are usually based on the premise that we won't change our current course. But sometimes we do change. There was a growing hole in the ozone layer. We banned the stuff that was causing it. Problem began to reverse. One of those "doomsday scenarios that failed to become true". The clean air and clean water acts have done good things as well.

Thirdly, there is one way in which environmentalism is like religion. Values are involved. Science can, at its best, only give us predictions about the likely results of our actions. Its up to us to figure out how to balance and value things like wilderness, future generations, equality, etc...

-Erin

Ernie Elkins
(EarthDweller)

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Re: Michael Crichton on 12/29/2006 13:59:43 MST Print View

Well said, Erin. It's worth noting that Sen. James Inhofe, outgoing chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called on Crichton as an "expert witness" in a hearing on "the role of science in environmental policy making." Furthermore, it should come as no surprise that Bush is a Crichton fan. Apparently, he had a private meeting with Crichton during which Crichton "reinforced" Bush's own opposition to the theory of global warming. This doesn't really surprise me -- both Bush and Inhofe obviously prefer fiction to fact when it comes to science, and who could be better qualified to deliver that fiction than a best-selling novelist.