In northern Nevada, we live in a beautiful place where many of us spend a lot of time outdoors. We are fortunate to have open space, however, that does not mean that we do not share this space with many others. Unfortunately, the evidence that it is a shared space usually comes in the form of some sort of trash. After driving or hiking for miles out into the desert, which feels like the middle of nowhere and you must be the first person to have found this location, you open your car door to step out or sit down on a rock and release your backpack straps, only to look down and find a plastic water bottle, bottle caps, cigarette butts, or dog poop, at your feet. The unquenchable adventurer in you dies just a little bit as you realize you were not the first human here, and then in the next heartbeat your blood boils as you ask yourself “why do people choose to leave their trash behind?”
The choice to pick up and pack out trash is rooted in an ethical perspective that to preserve natural beauty and minimize negative human impacts on other facets of nature, we must believe our actions have consequences and that we can (positively and negatively) impact our environment. While every human is dependent on the resources provided by the earth for survival (shelter, air, food, and water), we do not all share the same knowledge or awareness regarding how our actions impact the earth, therefore our outdoor ethics (or behavior choices) span a wide spectrum.
Two of the most well-known providers and authorities on Outdoor Ethics are Tread Lightly! and The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Each of these organizations have responsible outdoor recreation principles that serve to bring awareness, educate, and prompt positive behaviors for minimizing negative impacts to nature. Nevada Outdoor School is trained in these programs and frequently provides trainings and utilizes many of their resources to reach adults and kids in northern Nevada.
Nevada Outdoor School strives to incorporate outdoor ethics education into all our programs as we inspire exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat, and dedication to community. To us, that means encouraging people to analyze their actions, evaluate how those actions positively and negatively impact the natural world and then choose wisely to positively impact the natural world and reduce negative impacts whenever possible. We are excited to implement our newly developed outdoor ethic model called Action. Impact. Choice., or the A.I.C. Model, during the upcoming school year and beyond. The power of analyzing your actions, evaluating the impact, and choosing wisely is that it is not only applicable to outdoor recreation scenarios, but also to dealing with friends, family members, and colleagues. Your choices matter, no matter where you are or who you are surrounded by. This is an outdoor ethic and cultural ethic that Nevada Outdoor School believes in.
Recently, while hiking in Lamoille Canyon, it was evident that many people were choosing not to pick up their dog poop. Gross. The action of not picking up dog poop has impacts. The obvious impact of stepping in it is real, but so are the less observable potential health risks, for example, what happens when the rain washes the microorganisms in that poop into the nearby stream? When we are explicitly taught about and encouraged to consider the impacts our actions have, we can make better choices. The A.I.C. Model, and outdoor ethics, are less about overly simplistic dualistic thinking (right versus wrong), and more about considering options and choosing the behavior that has the least negative impact on the natural world, for a given situation. One size does not fit all in life.
Get outside and practice applying and learning from the A.I.C. Model. Think about or analyze your actions. Evaluate the impacts (positive and negative) each action will have. Choose the action that will result in a positive impact or minimizes negative impacts when possible. With awareness and education, you may find that like you as an organism, your behavior and choices evolve over time. Want more information or a local training on outdoor ethics for your family or group? Visit nevadaoutdoorschool.org to learn more about upcoming opportunities.