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The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

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Earth

Sep 19, 2018

Uttarakhand Trekking Ban: The Adventure Tourism Industry Reacts

India's adventure tourism leaders are fighting back against the High Court's blanket ban on alpine trekking in the Uttarakhand.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Over the course of September, we’ve reported a first-hand account of the environmental and human affliction brought on by mass trekking in India, as well as an analysis of the High Court’s overbroad, knee-jerk ban of trekking in the Uttarakhand region.

In the aftermath of the High Court’s judgment, which threatens thousands of livelihoods, the adventure tourism industry is up-in-arms at the blanket ban on trekking in alpine meadows within the Uttarakhand. Several industry leaders, along with the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (“ATOAI”), are crying out for a repeal of the ban.

VICTIM TO THE NUMBERS GAME

Mandip Singh Soin

Mandip Singh Soin, Founder and Managing Director of Ibex Expeditions, was one of the first adventure travel experts to launch a company in India in 1979. He was drawn to the Indian Himalaya for their “pristine valleys and unclimbed mountains, all shrouded in Hindu mythology.” When contacted by The Outdoor Journal to comment on the Uttarakhand ban, Mandip shared that over the last decades, he has noticed an upsurge of adventure travel. The result – some companies have “started pandering to the Numbers game and also price wars which can never leave enough resources for environmental clean ups and also compromise safety issues.” According to Mandip, the blanket ban lacks the specificity of an adequate solution.

“The Ruling of the court is typically something that tends to happen when faced with a crisis. It’s easier to place a Ban and give immediate relief to the aggrieved persons rather than spend the time and effort in understanding the ramifications and undertaking a targeted therapy!” Local service providers such as trek operators, cooks, porters and guides are left without work.

Rather than eliminating the few culpable trekking companies that contribute most of the mass trekking harm, the ban puts the kibosh on all adventure travel companies. “What we are now seeing is [an] alarm call to the Trekking industry wherein due to the actions of a few rotten apples, the whole basket may not be considered worthy of serving, at least in the State of Uttarakhand.”

“These trekking routes and bugyals have formed the backbone of the local economy for generations.”

Real, targeted solutions are needed with safety guidelines that clearly identify bad actors. For example, eliminating fixed camps on alpine meadows, limiting carrying loads, reducing group sizes, educating trekkers on how to manage waste, ensuring that all local operators are registered and certified and penalising commercial trekking companies if they violate these standards. According to Mandip, “in the larger picture [the ban] will allow for all trekking operators to be properly registered with the governments and their rules will not be diluted at the state level as compared to regulations for the adventure operators certification by the central government.”

Photo: Paul Hamilton

THE HORRORS OF COMMERCIAL TREKKING

Harish Kapadia

Harish Kapadia, adventure expert, writer and editor of the Himalayan Journal, recognizes that something must be done to curb the environmental damage caused by commercial trekking. When asked to comment, Harish shared his outrage: “The news and pictures of degradation of grassland is shocking and if something drastic is not done, not many pristine areas will be available to trekkers. Photographs of mass camping, hundreds lining up on trail and garbage are horrifying and they are just tip of an iceberg.”

But Harish notes that the undefined nature of the ban will unnecessarily cut off access to many areas. “The court ruling stops camping on all Bugiyals (grazing grounds), but does not define ‘what is a bugiyal’. Almost any open grassland can be termed as such. As most trails are more than a day treks, this will rule out many trails.”

MEASURING THE IMPACT

“The livelihoods of thousands must not be compromised due to the folly of a few.”

In a press release from New Delhi on September 6th, the ATOAI, which is committed to promoting responsible and sustainable tourism, points out that the Court’s judgments lack foundation. “These are not backed by data, scientific research, or instituted studies to determine the impact, benefit or damages; which would lead to a measured debate before reaching a conclusive decision.” And because no mountain in the Uttarakhand can be climbed without camping in a bugyal, this ban puts a complete halt to the sport of mountaineering in the state.

The ATOAI’s leading members shared their views in a recent press release – excerpts below.

Swadesh Kumar

Swadesh Kumar, ATOAI President said, “We support penalising rampant defaulters, however, the livelihoods of thousands must not be compromised due to the folly of a few.”

Vaibhav Kala

Vaibhav Kala, from Aquaterra Adventures calls for operators to focus on the small details, rather than trying to expand as large as possible. “The outdoors is not about making your company a multinational corporation. It is more about Back to Basics, to how it’s always supposed to be done. Safe, Small and Sustainable.”

Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar, ATOAI’s former President, said, ”The need of the hour is to make sustainable policies for all adventure sports and fine defaulters. These trekking routes and bugyals have formed the backbone of the local economy for generations. We have to reinstate operations here with maximum regulation to ensure protection of our Himalaya and its treasures. The industry and state government need to join hands to ensure immediate opening of trekking activities.”

DANGERS OF CIRCUMVENTING THE BAN

Dr. Sunil Kaintholas

According to Dr. Sunil Kainthola, Director of the Mountain Shepherds Initiative, who reached out to TOJ in response to its mass trekking coverage, the commercial trekking operations are circumventing the ban by leading trekkers on more dangerous routes. “The same online companies as mentioned in [TOJ’s] article are now offering redesigned trek itineraries some of which include an altitude gain of 1000 meters in a single day in a hypoxic mountain environment. So while the spirit of the High Court order will be honored, the lives of trekkers will be definitely at risk.”

“While the spirit of the High Court order will be honored, the lives of trekkers will be definitely at risk.”

Uttarakhand, once a community-run tourism destination, has now become a global hotspot for adventure sports. The government and judiciary are struggling to find a balance with commercial operation management. High-volume trekking tours are damaging nature, but the solution cannot be to ban all trekking activity. The High Court’s decision has proven shortsighted as it is not based on statistical data, ignores the impact on local communities that rely on tourism, and has resulted in compromising the safety of thousands of trekkers. The ATOAI is seeking to repeal the ban in court later this month. The Outdoor Journal will continue to post updates as the story unfolds.

Cover Photo: High-altitude trekking in a small group of four, with a guide from Lata village in Uttarakhand’s renowned Nanda Devi National Park. © Apoorva Prasad / The Outdoor Journal.

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Athletes & Explorers

Jun 19, 2019

REWILD with Tony Riddle: Part 2 – Children and Education

Tony Riddle explains how our educational system must be reinvented to better preserve childrens' innate abilities and uniqueness.

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WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

In our latest series called REWILD with Tony Riddle, The Outdoor Journal has been speaking with Tony about his paradigm-shifting approach to living a natural lifestyle that’s more in line with our DNA than Western society’s delerious social norms. In Part 1, we introduced how Tony is leading a rewilding movement through his coaching practices as well as his commitment to run 874 miles barefoot across the entire UK to raise awareness for sustainability.

In this installment, Tony discusses society’s disconnect from our ancestral hunter-gather lifestyle, the need to completely reinvent the education system, and how to preserve children’s innate abilities.

REWILD

TOJ: When I see the word “rewilding,” I picture the opening scene of the movie Last of the Mohicans where Daniel Day-Lewis is sprinting and leaping through the woods on an elk hunt. Is that how humans are supposed to be, an athletic animal in tune with nature?

Tony Riddle: In modern society, we’re basically living in these linear boxes, breathing in the same air, getting the same microbiome experience, sleeping in the same room over and over, and nothing alters. Whereas the tribal cultures that we came from are moving through a landscape that’s forever changing. They’re always uploading new sensory pathways, new sensory experiences, constantly in a state of wiring and rewiring the brain. For me, the path of rewilding is getting back to that – being present in nature and honoring a cellular system, a sensory system and a microbiome system in their natural setting.

When you start to really assess it, some people have this vision of hunter-gatherers as savages, but these are sophisticated beings, and as they move through the landscape, they become the landscape.

By “Rewilding” we can get back to a lifestyle that’s more in line with our innate human biology.

Tribespeople operate in these states of meditation which, when you have kids you appreciate it. I’ve studied childhood behavior in the formative years, those first years up until the age of seven. The brain is working at a certain hertz that you and I can only achieve through meditation. This is the state of Flow. It hasn’t been cultured or schooled out of them.

When I think of “rewilding” now I have a term I’m calling “rechilding.” We’ve got to try and get back to that level of frequency that tribes have managed to stretch into adulthood. I’ve tried to break down the behaviors of these tribes. I discovered Peter Gray’s work, who asked the question to 10 leading anthropologists, “What does childhood look like in nature?” From infancy through the age of 16, children play. That’s all they do, without any adult intervention, and they learn everything they need to learn about their adult environment in those first playful years. So if that’s the case, then they go into adulthood still playing and they don’t have to work to find flow states through that field of senses and the frequency that they’ve been operating in.

PLAY

TOJ: In familiarizing myself with your work, I noticed that some elements are about reverse engineering the range of motion, movement chains and posture of our own selves as children, while others focus on reconnecting with a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, how do you reconcile those concepts?

“For children, it’s about preserving their wildness and their innate abilities.”

Tony Riddle: For children, it’s about preserving their wildness and their innate abilities, the stuff that you and I would have had but we went through an educational process where it’s not appropriate to move or say anything out of turn, where children are expected to just sit still in a classroom for hours on end and not share anything. But then you realize that when you go out into the world that you have to share everything, We need to show them the appropriate behaviors and not dumb them down by limiting their experience.

Tony spending time climbing trees with his children to preserve their innate ability to climb and balance.

In those early years, we have things like physical education, but before physical education, we have play. We were all playing around, trying to understand the physicality of our body. We’re born with all the gear, we just have no idea how to use it, because our adult species doesn’t know how to demonstrate the appropriate behavior. When we go through the playful state to try to understand this system as children, we might impersonate all the animals, but now as adults, we have to go to animal flow class to relearn it.

When children go to physical education class, they’re given specialist clothing, which includes sneakers and the specialist clothes that their adult species wear. The adults model to children how tough exercise is and how brutal it is. Adults come back profusely sweating, which is absurd because imagine the hostile environments that this species has had to traverse! My DNA goes back 270,000 years to a tribe in East Africa. So imagine how hostile these environments would have been!

“Imagine the hostile environments that this species has had to traverse!”

We observe these parkour kids, they’re showing us what’s innately in us. I love hanging out with them because it’s just expanded my mind and my movement. The physicality of the human being is unbelievable, but it’s been cultured into a sedentary position at this stage because the adult population is showing a compromised, sedentary lifestyle. By the time a child reaches the age of seven, all of the observations are made – the templates for the rest of their lives. So if the adult species is compromised, then within those first six years, that’s all the child will recognize as their potential range of behavior. I call it their “Tribe of Influence.” The tribe of influence is made up of your family, your friends and your close community around you. If you’re observing all their behaviors, that just becomes your social core. It doesn’t mean it’s biologically normal, it’s just the social norm. And social norms of today are so far afield, we are doing the most horrendous things. I read a stat yesterday, since 1970, 60% of the wild animal populations are gone. We’ve managed to do that in 50 years. That’s less than one human life span. Our social norms are compromising the planet.

Read next on TOJ: Tony Riddle: Introducing REWILD

REMEMBER YOUR PAST

There’s a great term I’m plugging the moment which Peter Kahn called “environmental generational amnesia.” Every generation that’s born, it can either expand on the knowledge passed down from before, or be dumbed down further, and it only remembers where it left off. So for those 60 percent of the species that are gone, to the new generation that comes in, that’s their new norm.

“It doesn’t mean it’s biologically normal, it’s just the social norm.”

The natural human pathways from our previous generations have been forgotten in a way, but movement is just a component of it for me. It goes beyond movement. There’s a whole physical, social and spiritual animal that needs rewilding. There’s also sleep and play and nutrition and human contact, even sunlight. We’re just disconnected.

Tony regularly plunges his body into icy water to maintain proper cardiovascular health.

We have a D3 issue with our culture now. We’re surrounded by artificial light in artificial environments, but when we do go out in the actual environment, we cover up by wearing sunglasses, so we’re not actually absorbing any of the nutrients from the sun that we should be. Especially in the UK, people are starved of sunlight, but as soon as the sun is out, they’re wearing sunglasses. If you look at helio-therapy, the highest absorption of D3 is around the eyes. There was a study recognizing that sun exposure helped kids with TB recover, but it also found that when they put sunglasses on, they didn’t get the results.

REINVENT EDUCATION

TOJ: If you were the superintendent of a school, what changes would you make if you are in charge?

“The educational system has to be scrunched up, thrown in a bin and restarted again.”

Tony Riddle: It’s almost like the educational system has to be scrunched up, thrown in a bin and restarted again. It’s flawed and it’s not working. In countries that are trying to do something about it, in particular, Finland in Scandinavia, it’s completely different. People are starting to wake up to the fact that it’s not biologically normal to be indoors all day, it’s not biologically normal to sit down all day, it’s not biologically normal to eat processed foods. But, that’s the environment where we’re growing these young bodies and minds.

The future is unraveling at such a rapid rate with tech. My understanding is, the current iteration of the educational system will have to die because of the way that the tech world is transforming things. So what can we possibly take from the educational model of today for five years time or 10 years time, where are we actually going to be in terms of the evolution of tech?

Like father like daughter, training their hanging L-sits on the olympic rings.

There’s almost like a natural pendulum. It’s swinging way back over this way. Now we’ll start to explore more biologically normal ways. With my barefoot run, I’m trying to raise awareness of these issues like sustainability in the environment and I can reach a wide audience through technology.

“It comes down to small changes.”

It comes down to small changes. You can drive yourself nuts thinking, “I’ve got to do this and do this…”, but actually, there’s value in just assessing things that are in your hands, looking at what is a biological norm versus a biological extreme. If you can’t justify something, you have to let it go. Then, what you can start to do is whittle away at things that aren’t appropriate behaviors and that will improve in the next generation that is observing those behaviors.

You and I are walking around with the observations from those first six years of our lives, and then if you really unravel it, we’re walking around with the norms of our ancestors as well.

We need a different educational model. We need a schooling system based on educating kids about their fundamental needs, including movement and play, one that gets them involved in growing natural foods and learning about their own independent role within the interdependent social tribe.

We’re all unique, but we go to school and we’re taught to conform. You have to sit and do the same exams, but in a real tribal situation, there’s an interdependence of the tribe, When you have kids, you suddenly realize how important it is. I’ve got three kids and another one on the way. They’re all different. Nature didn’t design them to be the same. They’re designed to be uniquely different so they fulfill their role in our tribe. Why not nurture the fact that they are different in order to grow their individual talents at a very young age. How do I nurture their unique abilities and create the appropriate environment for them to learn and become uniquely awesome?

Tony’s coaching is individually tailored based upon the belief that we all have a unique role to play in our community.

Stay tuned for our REWILD series featuring an in-depth discussion of Tony Riddle’s socially extreme, yet biologically normal practices.

Part 1, Tony Riddle: Introducing REWILD
Part 2, REWILD with Tony Riddle: Children and Education
Part 3, REWILD with Tony Riddle: Transforming Your Body
Part 4, REWILD with Tony Riddle: Barefoot Running Across Great Britain

To connect with Tony, visit tonyriddle.com

Facebook: @naturallifestylist
Instagram: @thenaturallifestylist
Twitter: @feedthehuman
Youtube: Tony Riddle

Feature Image: Tony’s daughter working on her grip strength in Tony’s studio.

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