In this special guest post, Wandering Workshops mountain guide, Olympian and 2014 and 2018 GB Park and Pipe mastermind Lesley responds to recent posts by Calum and Rebecca.
I love Lesley's ability to out think me.
For me, particularly from a mtb perspective (with its petrol head problem), the sport has its roots in control over, rather than being in balance with nature. We grew up digging up jumps, cutting down trees, riding over footpaths, clashing with other land users as if we had some right to be there and it was our playground. No respect for nature at all.
There’s also the ego playing a part here, always wanting to go faster, bigger, more “gnarly”. I grew up with brands telling me to “never stop exploring” or “the search” and selling me a dream of a life of a pro athlete that isn’t actually possible (or with the benefit of hindsight, desirable). I think for some of my peers this has contributed some serious mental health challenges over the years, when faced with the reality of life.
We’re always being sold more, another holiday, a new board/bike etc, bigger, better, faster. More, more, more….I’ve recently realised for me, these toys are just tools to get in flow in nature. And actually, I can do that in a pair of trainers from my back door.
Thanks for this Lesley! Resonates massively
I feel so strongly that we/the outdoor community have a special agency, capacity and duty to respond to converging crises in front of us. We should be the ones instilling nature connection & stewardship in others, understanding how to work with the power of diversity & authenticity and willing challenge the status quo.
This is all possible, many of us are already living change through what sport/adventure/time outside has given us. Similar to Alex's point below, a lot of where my thoughts are is where to work with and against our industry which really isn't on the same page by in large
This is one of the most important pieces I have read on this topic. The two things that stand out to me are the parts on imperfection and true leadership.
On imperfection, it is such a valuable way to talk about "imperfect activism" when you relate it to the idea of a "perfect day" on the mountain (and how rare these days actually are) or the fact that imperfection and failure are actually ways that we in the action sports community build community. I have never thought of it like this before and it actually makes me quite sad to think how many comments I see from people in the action sports community asking "how did you get to the alps - by plane?" or "what's your snowboard made out of - oil?" etc etc. You are so right, ordinarily we celebrate the amount of failures it takes to achieve a new trick or line. Why are we in the outdoor and action sports community so fixated on the individual and the need for everyone to automatically be perfect when it comes to activism?
That brings me to the next part that stood out to me - true leadership. I, like other comments here, think this comes down in large part to the industry itself. I see a systemic lack of leadership (obviously with exceptions being companies like Patagonia, Finisterre, Picture etc) from the industry when it comes to the climate crisis and protecting nature. The reason a lot of us got into action sports to begin with is because we wanted to get away from the competitive and win at all costs attitude you would find in traditional sports. I feel the industry has a lot of work to do to bring back this sense of community and shared understanding - all progressing forwards together with the shared goal of landing that trick or scoring that perfect powder turn (or having a stable climate in the future).
I think this is acutely obvious through the outdoor industries response to the climate crisis. So many brands simply try to sell us this as an individual problem to solve by buying their new "sustainable" jacket or promoting an athlete driving an expensive electric car as the solution. The response to the climate crisis desperately needs some of those qualities that Lesley mentions above; "creativity, courage, collaboration, respect, resilience, self-awareness, humility, clear-headedness, and clarity and precision of action". Not more endless focus on the individual and a competition between brands to sell the most "sustainable" product. The industry needs to come together and understand that they have an absolutely crucial leadership role here. It should not just be up to a few brands - the whole industry needs to be the ones pushing for collective action and using their power to help the community drive political change to deal with the climate crisis.
When you see the response from the surf industry to the Big Sea it feels like there is a very long way to go.