Interview with Instagram @PublicLandsHateYou
Public Lands Hate You
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Instagram account @PublicLandsHateYou was upset and dismayed at what he was experiencing on our public lands. On a recent trip to an Idaho wilderness area, he came across a tree that had been recently initialed and an unattended smoldering campfire that could have easily gotten out of control. Instead of just ruminating on the situation, he took action and became a social media activist. After covering wildflower destruction during the recent California “superbloom” he was written up by Jezebell and his follower count and reach began to skyrocket. Soon thereafter, an article was written by the Guardian that propelled him further.
Through his Instagram account, he calls out individuals and companies that are setting poor examples and those who are engaging in behaviors considered to be unsavory, unethical or illegal that cause environmental harm to public lands. At the end of the day, he is not “out to get people” and dislikes confrontation like anyone else; but sometimes, he surmises, fire has to be fought with fire. He takes the time to contact people and companies that have shared questionable content and works to rectify the situation through dialogue. If they disregard or are dismissive, he puts it to the public court of opinion through @PublicLandsHateYou with a detailed explanation and rationale.
His observations about the rampant misuse and abuse of our public lands are not unique and he has captured a feeling shared by many. He now serves as a voice for these issues and plans on continuing to publish new content and stay engaged. People learn by watching and when an activity is causing harm (intentionally or unintentionally) on public lands this becomes an example for others. It's harmful enough when individuals with relatively small follower counts are engaged in poor behavior, but when an “influencer” or established business is involved, their reach is far greater and the fallout can be substantial. This is where education is paramount. Following the herd mentality is not a replacement for critical self evaluation and the message is that companies and “influencers” are not always the ones to be looking to as role models.
He also posts in a proactive fashion about inappropriate behaviors, ethics and leave no trace principles. Through public education and awareness, he hopes, people will be more likely to treat public lands with dignity and respect and public shaming would no longer be a necessary tool. In fact, he would rather not have @PublicLandsHateYou need to be in existence at all. With the increasing popularity of spending time outdoors, our public lands are being loved to death and sometimes getting downright abused. He reminds people that others are watching you on social media and you will be called out by those who care and are concerned for the resource.
He encourages people and companies to take a step back and think about the consequences of their actions before posting to social media. Context, lens and messaging matters. The inverse is also true for those deliberately trying to set good examples by creating teachable moments. Public lands are owned by all of us and must be cared for so our land managers aren't forced to close down or restrict access. By working to create change and raise awareness, our public lands will be in better condition for us to enjoy and for future generations.
On a personal note:
Thinking back to my younger years when I was twelve, I carved my knife into a picnic table with some friends at a Boy Scout retreat. When the scoutmasters found out, I was in hot water and they threatened to have me sent home. I remember feeling a deep sense of shame that I had done something wrong. This was a teachable moment and seeing the anger of the adults conveyed to me that they cared. This was an invitation that I might choose to care, too. Their anger was rooted in their love for public resources and having one of their own engaging in such activities was totally and completely unacceptable. As an adult, I am still not perfect and sometimes critical feedback can be a tough pill to swallow, but I am thankful that I have been surrounded by people throughout my life who care enough to give it.
Some of the issues at hand include:
Geotagging (driving traffic to sensitive areas through location sharing)
Social Trails (taking shortcuts and trampling vegetation)
Safety (promoting irresponsible behavior by showing oneself in dangerous situations)
Leave No Trace (practicing a set of outdoor ethics that minimize visitor impacts)
Drones (illegal use in wilderness areas and places where their presence can degrade experiences)
Feeding Wildlife (feeding wild animals makes them dependent on humans for food)