Regarding COVID-19: Please recreate responsibly and practice social distancing. Closures and travel restrictions are changing rapidly, always check and respect local regulations.

Technology Has a Positive Impact on Outdoor Recreation

Is technology impacting outdoor recreation positively? I believe so

    Technology is defined as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.” In the industry of outdoor recreation, technology has a major influence. This impact is a positive one. The imprint of technology has been seen in improved safety, easier access to remote locations, availability of information, and in the ability to raise awareness for environmental crises. Technology leads to more unskilled people being in the wilderness. This can have a negative effect on nature when people go off the trail or leave trash. The positive effects of technology on the outdoor outweigh the negative impact it can have.

    Out of the main outdoor recreational activities, rock climbing is the most dangerous. The risk of one piece of equipment breaking while a thousand feet on a cliff makes rock climbing deadly. In 1981, thirty-nine climbers died. This was when the sport was still in its beginnings.  In 2013, twenty-one climbers died. This is a significantly lower number and is a great accomplishment considering the rise in popularity of the sport. The equipment used today is a lot more reliable than before. Rock climbing is one activity where safety has been vastly improved because of technology. The outdoor world in general has benefited greatly by the use of satellite technology. While not one-hundred percent reliable, GPS allows people to find there way back to society when lost. Without the use of this technology, more people would get lost in the wilderness with no way of knowing which way to get out (if they possess no knowledge of maps). Satellite communication technology allows for people to coordinate rescue missions in case of emergency, whereas without this technology the percentage of survival would be very slim. The improved safety in outdoor recreation is thanks to improvements in technology.

    Remote locations are very difficult to get to. If you want to get to remote places it will take days of hiking. Some trails are hundreds of miles long. Technology has introduced a much easier ways to get to these places. Helicopters can take you into the most remote places in a matter of hours, compared to the days of hiking. With over two-thirds of the national parks in the west, people in the east are at a disadvantage to visiting these locations. The plane has made it extremely easy to get to one side of the country to the other in under seven hours. The internet makes this even easier. The ability to book plane tickets online allow easy planning of a trip. Now when you reach your destination it is even easier to get out into nature thanks to guides services that you booked earlier on the internet. The internet and technology as a whole has allowed for ease of travel and the ease of getting into nature.

    The ease of learning in every discipline has been greatly improved since the internet came around in 1991. The internet has been developed to allow people to post their own original content tailored towards their picked audience. People are now posting safety tips, how to articles, and first hand experiences. All this information allows people to pick up a new hobby and learn it without having to pay the money to learn from a person. Youtube, created in 2005, revolutionized learning once again. Instead of having to follow how to’s based on words, people could now follow along with a video. Youtube also helped spark interest in outdoor recreational sports. Users could share their own videos about climbing, mountain biking, or anything else. Anyone with an internet connection could see these. The Outbound Collective, created in 2012, changed outdoor recreation once again. Users on this site are able to post local activities that would otherwise be unknown to non-locals. There are currently five-thousand plus activities on here and over five hundred thousand users on this site. The impact that the internet is having on outdoor recreation is a huge one.

    Environmental crisis is affecting everyone. The problem is that there have been environmental problems for awhile, but no one really knew about them. Now people are more aware than ever. People can post articles on social media or the internet that millions of people will see. Of those millions maybe a few thousand will take action but that is better than before, when no one was even aware. Raising funds to find solutions is a lot easier than before because instead of having to get cash or check, you can fill out a form online to donate money. Companies are also starting to take initiative on this issue. Patagonia, for example, started the program, one percent for the planet. They have been able to form an alliance with multiple companies to pledge one percent of sales to helping the environment. The internet has helped immensely in this by creating recognition and by helping raise funds.

    There are some dangers that technology poses in outdoor recreation and environmental issues. More people than ever are getting outside and experiencing nature. People are doing more dangerous activities that they are not ready for simply because they want more followers on social media. People are not waiting til their skill level has reached the point where they are capable of participating at higher levels of these activities. Technology has made people reliant on it. They believe that there is no longer the need to learn because technology will save them if they get in trouble out in nature. There are people that go on three hundred mile backpacking trips with no map reading knowledge. Why do they do this? They believe that their GPS’s are invincible. Companies that sell these products have made them believe that but it is not the company's fault, it is the person’s for being ignorant. More people outside also means more trash. People need to follow the LEAVE NO TRACE principle that has been set by the park services. The problem is that people do not think that it is their job to pick up after themselves. Technology is not to blame for these issues. It is simply the person misusing and misinterpreting the information.

   Technology has made a very positive impact on the world of outdoor recreation and preserving nature. It is now easier than ever to stay safe while outdoors, easier to get to remote places, easier to gain information, and easier to raise awareness for environmental issues. People will misuse the information and tools that technology has given them but it is not technology that is to blame.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Payton Bartlett

18 years old Lake Ozark, MO