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Will solitude become impossible with increasing population?


branchville
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branchville

With more and more immigrants and birth rates, will it become impossible to find true solitude in nature? 

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With more and more immigrants and birth rates, will it become impossible to find true solitude in nature? 

branchville..............

I feel you have asked an excellent, fundamental question.  I remember asking the same basic question back in the 1970's.  I had read The Population Bomb by Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, which warned of almost certain doom for our planet due to overpopulation.  Forget about solitude, this book predicted a global disaster, and it certainly scared me.

Luckily, for a wide variety of reasons these predictions did not pan out.  Today, both Ehrlich and his work have been highly criticised.  So we have to be careful trying to make projections too far into the future.  

You still ask a good question.  Someone recently brought up Ehrlich and his book on the radio, so I happen to be doing some research into this issue.  Give me a couple days or a week, and I'll get back to you with a little better response and some details.  

 

Gary M

Living the good life in Olathe, Kansas 

 

 

Edited by Gary M
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Sounds like the silly musings of people who never get out of the city and believe too much fear-mongering. There is vastly more land with nobody on it than places where you can't find solitude. Much of our wild country is wilder now than it was 100 years ago when there were ranchers, shepherds, trappers, miners and subsistence farmers there. We've protected it so there are only back- & horse-packers, and a few others with grazing leases, but I doubt they last long. There are very few backpackers among the growing population - backpackers aren't normal, if you haven't noticed. And birth rates are dropping among educated people.

 

Some imagine that we all need to live in Soviet-style urban high rises, give up our personal vehicles, and have to compete in a lottery for the opportunity to spend time in the wilderness. I don't think that will ever be necessary.

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toejam.................

 

I generally agree with your thoughts.  

I am putting my ideas together, and hope to have a better response within the next day or so.  The statistics I find do say the birthrate in the US has been dropping for some years and the younger generation does not participate in the outdoors as some of my baby boomer friends.  I don't think immigration is relevant here.

One of my points is that I think some of us (including myself) have been negatively influenced by dire warnings of impending doom by a generation of Ecologist who have overstated their position.  As I have grown older, I have generally become more positive, and have tried to put old social and political issues behind me.

I'll get back to you, and would love to hear other TrailGroove readers opinion on this; and have someone with better qualifications than myself in this area comment.  

 

Gary M 

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I hope interested readers might take a moment and consider the following thoughts: 

 

I feel branchville has brought up an interesting point.  Although noise pollution and the possibility of having a quality solitary experience in the outdoors were noted, this really brings up a more fundamental question.   

What is the future of backpacking/hiking in the USA?  Is the outlook good, bad, or something in-between? 

First, let me make it clear, I am not any kind of expert in this area, and would like to see this further explored in TrailGroove magazine, or at least here in response to this posting by those perhaps better qualified. 

I have already discussed this question with other hikers over the past years, and usually get one of the following very different responses. 

 

  1.  There is a major problem of noise and light pollution, the trails and the parks (National, State, and otherwise) are near max. capacity; population growth is usually blamed.  Corporations, oil, logging and mining interests have destroyed too many valuable national resources already.  I can say, at one time I held similar views as others in this general group.  In fact, I was a card carrying member!  Today, not so much; but I still am concerned!  I can't say I've ever had anyone mention immigration growth as a factor as branchville brings up.   

  1. Others have a very different concern for the future of traditional backpacking/hiking due to several demographic issues.  The baby boomers (my generation!), are starting to die off, and are not being replaced in like numbers.  The boomers were the generation that helped popularize backpacking/hiking due to access to expendable income, free time, and a general back to nature movement in the 1950's-1960's.  Noted sources state the younger generation do not participate in outdoor activities as past generations due to economic and social issues.  In fact, many sources decry the poor physical fitness and lack of participation of the youth, often blaming technology such as computer and phone use.  My research shows the birth rate has been down actually for some time.  Immigration stats differ depending on which source you look at.  But I don't feel (again, perhaps I am wrong) immigrants really participate in backpacking/hiking in very large numbers.  Minority populations may have increased in the US, but again I don't think there are enough minorities participating to have a major influence. I have no statistics to show this, just an assumption.  More women do seem to participate in backpacking/hiking today than years past, but again are the numbers large enough to have a major impact?  Some might argue the overall population growth that does exist results in stress on our limited natural resources resulting in unequal access to the outdoors.  However this is simply too Marxist sounding of a concept for me to accept personally.  I do believe the results of a 10 year mediocre US economy have had a negative impact on backpacking/hiking participation.  Lack of funds has had an effect on National and State Park funding across the nation.  Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorers, church groups, etc do a great job of introducing kids to the outdoors.  I am  sure readers of TrailGroove do the same with their children.  But once again, these are small numbers vs. all the others not participating.  I would like to hear other TrailGroove readers thoughts on this.  

 

Gary M

Here are some sources for those interested:

http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/06/news/economy/birth-rate-low/

http://www.today.com/money/secure-future-national-parks-look-beyond-aging-baby-boomers-6C9748610  Sorry, I cannot get this link to work, it's a very interesting article

http://flyinbrianrobinson.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-future-of-backpacking.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_States#cite_note-215

http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/research.youth.html

http://www.nature.org/newsfeatures/kids-in-nature/kids-in-nature-poll.xml

Edited by Gary M
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I'm just going to respond to branchville's original question: is solitude going to be hard to find in the future?  I emphatically believe NO--I just spent (as an example) two days in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado--after getting a mile from the trailhead--I met NO ONE for the rest of the trip, until I returned to the 2 miles near the trailhead.   I don't know that I'm qualified to muse about birth rate, loss of baby boomers, out of shape/overweight younger people, etc as to the perceived impact on the ability to find solitude.  I just know that, with even a LITTLE BIT of planning it's not hard to find.

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I'm just going to respond to branchville's original question: is solitude going to be hard to find in the future?  I emphatically believe NO--I just spent (as an example) two days in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado--after getting a mile from the trailhead--I met NO ONE for the rest of the trip, until I returned to the 2 miles near the trailhead.   I don't know that I'm qualified to muse about birth rate, loss of baby boomers, out of shape/overweight younger people, etc as to the perceived impact on the ability to find solitude.  I just know that, with even a LITTLE BIT of planning it's not hard to find.

 

Good answer, direct and to the point!  

I agree with your answer, there are many places where solitude will be available for the foreseeable future.  I just would like to have some statistical evidence versus only verbal assertion.

 

Gary M 

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I can only relate my own experience but clearly, there are more people in the backcountry in the Northern Rockies (or at least around SW MT) than at any point before over the approximately 6 decades I've been doing this stuff.  I don't believe there is any question that has a lot to do with the specific location and the population growth.  Can one still find solitude?  Absolutely.  Didn't meet a single person after getting off the county road onto a FS road last weekend for 2 complete days.  It was the same story the previous weekend.  You just have to start looking at the more obscure locations and off-trail.  Tomorrow is my wife's last day at her job (retired) and I don't really expect we will be looking at weekends anymore.  Even some of the more utilized locations are essentially vacant 5 days a week.

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I can only relate my own experience but clearly, there are more people in the backcountry in the Northern Rockies (or at least around SW MT) than at any point before over the approximately 6 decades I've been doing this stuff.  I don't believe there is any question that has a lot to do with the specific location and the population growth.  Can one still find solitude?  Absolutely.  Didn't meet a single person after getting off the county road onto a FS road last weekend for 2 complete days.  It was the same story the previous weekend.  You just have to start looking at the more obscure locations and off-trail.  Tomorrow is my wife's last day at her job (retired) and I don't really expect we will be looking at weekends anymore.  Even some of the more utilized locations are essentially vacant 5 days a week.

Congrats to your wife on retirement.  It's a dream of mine; maybe in a year or so, maybe 10.  I would love to be able to go on a trip whenever I was in the mood, which is about always!

 

Gary M

 

Edited by Gary M
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  Tomorrow is my wife's last day at her job (retired) and I don't really expect we will be looking at weekends anymore.  Even some of the more utilized locations are essentially vacant 5 days a week.

I will also be retiring this coming January (actually 2/1/16) and also plan on being able to take trips/hikes/climbs when and where I want to without dealing with the weekend mobs.

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