In the age of the climate breakdown, young people face a distressing dilemma: how can we continue to enjoy the beauty of our planet, while minimizing our impact on it?
After all, we know that travelling, camping, and hiking have negative effects on the environment. Jet fuel from air travel is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses. Litter and the disturbance of wildlife are only a couple of the impacts of camping. Meanwhile, people are willing to drive many kilometres in gas-burning vehicles to get out of city for a hike.
But who can blame us for wanting to feel connected to the planet on which we live? Research has shown that connecting with nature can lead us to behave in more pro-environmental ways. Furthermore, there are so many beautiful places to see around the world; with social media constantly feeding us images of travel adventures and dramatic nature spots, it is more difficult than ever to say no. But maybe we can find ways to enjoy these wonders without impacting the planet as much.
One way we know is to take public transportation. By arriving in nature by bus, train, or boat, one can cut out most of their emissions from transportation. Many cities around the world make it easy for their residents to do this. Many of Oslo's metro lines end in natural areas and parks. Japanese forest-bathing culture is made possible by transit-accessible hikes in and around their cities. But here in North America, we are not so lucky. Our cities tend to sprawl out, with low-density suburbs reaching far away from the urban core. This makes it incredibly difficult for urbanites to connect with nature. Luckily there are a number of things we can do to change this.
In the long run, we can densify the suburbs on the edges of our cities, making it easier to serve these places by transit efficiently. This would allow more people to live in compact, walkable neighbourhoods near nature, helping affordability and wellbeing. At the same time, more density and transit on the edges of our cities would have the added benefit of creating easier access to nature for everyone.
But maybe you don't want to wait that long. In the short run, you can join us in our Hikes by Transit meet-up series, where we will be going to some of Metro Vancouver's most beautiful natural areas, on the bus. Our goal is to connect with nature and each other, in a way that is gentle on our planet. Meanwhile, we will be getting some video footage that we will use to create an online campaign, asking our elected officials to improve transit access to nature, and densify neighbourhoods that already have good access to nature.
Elias is a member of Abundant Transit BC, a citizen not-for-profit organizing for more high-quality public transit options everywhere in British Columbia.