The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.

- Alexander von Humboldt



Mar 19, 2018

How the Plogging fad turned into the missing piece in one of my life’s missions

The absolute first time the plague of litter in our wilderness hit me was on the trek up to Kheerganga, in the Parvati Valley, back in 2009.


Jacob Cherian

A mini landslide had just opened up a cross section of the mountain. Clearly visible, plastic bottles and bags were packed into the mud more than 6 feet below the surface. How long ago it got there, I could only guess. I felt silly for even thinking, just an hour prior, how I was about to step into pristine territory. Those plastic bottles and bags had clearly been there for many years. As I climbed further, my heart sank deeper. By the time I reached the top, I had shed a tear. It was a mess, and I’m pretty sure it still is.

Fast forward to almost a decade later, and I’ve set some roots in the hills of Kodaikanal. It isn’t as grand as the Himalayas, but 2100 metres above sea level, it still offers a stunning view of the world with the feeling of isolation. However, it’s not remote enough to avoid the debris trail left behind by reckless humans. The hills and forests are strewn with litter. Years of neglect from the municipality has led to piles of trash in the wild. The network of garbage trucks bypass villages within 2 kilometres of the landfill, simply because there isn’t proper road access in the last mile. And so when I got there, well meaning farmers offered friendly advice of where I could go to throw my garbage in the wild. They all have a spot, or two or three.

In my first week in Kodaikanal, I picked up 4 sacks worth of garbage single handedly from within a 1 kilometre radius of my house. Each sack was as voluminous as myself. Every single piece of plastic that had ever come up to that hill had clearly never left.

On the final day of that specific pick-up session, i was waiting for the local jeep cab to come by and take all of it to the nearest bin. As I was waiting, Dominic, a foreign national that’s been living there a long time said that I had to accompany the jeep cab guy to ensure that he dropped it in the bin. Dominic had made the mistake of handing garbage over to the same jeep guy before and later found his bag of garbage opened up, by some animal, on a road side along the forest.

What strikes me is the absolute lack of ownership, an absence of pride in keeping our world clean and natural. Every piece of unnatural garbage is still being treated like a banana peel or rice husk. There is a clear underlying assumption that the people that make and sell all of this packaging have got it all figured out and that everything is just going to be okay. But it isn’t just going to happen without individuals taking initiative.

This is what I’ve tried to inculcate into every trek that I have led since then. I offer trekkers reusable trash bags with back straps and a walking staff that they can use to stab-and-pickup. At first, I was met with a lot of resistance. My own friends would make sarcastic remarks about how “you’re trying to get people to clean up your mountain and pay you on top of that.” The general reluctance continued until “Plogging” hit the newsfeeds last week. Plogging is a Swedish term that combines the words “jogging” and “plucka upp” (to pick up). I finally had a catchy word for what I was trying to do. It also came with its share of western validation, which sadly seems to be almost essential to inspire our local citizens into action. Let me be clear, I’m grateful for this term, and I’m grateful to the Swedes.

So within 24 hours of hearing about this, I created an event called “The Plogging Party.” I shared some invites with promo graphics, and I’ve already booked out over 50% of the capacity within a week of its launch. In another 2 weeks I should be able to fill up.

Along with the noble task of picking up junk dropped by others, I’ve included a menu of gourmet food and the word “party” as an appetizer to get people to give it a shot. Once they do, I know that they’ll just ‘get it’.

I’ve seen a single visit to #TheMistyMountainHop change people’s perspective on waste management drastically. The education begins in our printed guide. One of the top criteria in our guide states “Bury all organic waste. Carry the rest back into town. Or don’t bother coming”. And we mean that. If people are not willing to work within our humble-striving-towards-utopia…Just.dont.come. We don’t need your business. And you don’t need to enjoy this view. But if you come and help, joy awaits.

Setting expectations like that, and leading it into an experience where people are getting their little kids to carry sacks of garbage off the mountains, and finally ending it with dropping off garbage into the waste management system, offers our guests surprising joy. They wind up surprised at how rewarding it feels to help mother nature by clearing away the litter.

Hopefully the Plogging phenomenon, and the joy it brings, will spread from person to person so we can scale up this impact for a lot more thoughtful travelers to experience first hand.

You can join us at #TheMistyMountainHop by booking here.

Continue Reading



Jun 28, 2018

Belize Barrier Reef No Longer Endangered UNESCO World Heritage Site

Many commentators from around the world have been praising 'visionary' steps taken by Belize to ensure that the Belize Barrier Reef, the world's second-largest after Australia's, is no longer considered a 'World Heritage Site in Danger' by UNESCO.



The Outdoor Journal

According to a UNESCO report on June 26th, 2018, Belize has taken specific, important steps to ensure that the world’s second largest barrier reef system will be protected from oil exploration and other human activities.

As always, The Outdoor Journal contacted industry experts who know the oceans and coral better than anyone, to get their inside opinion.

Captain Paul Watson: Underwater photographer, award-winning film producer and ecotourism activist

“Belize has changed for the better in recent years. Recently, we were able to convince them to pull the flag and registration of a notorious pirate fish factory vessel, presently under arrest in Peru. I am encouraged that there is an effort to protect the unique and beautiful Belize Barrier Reef.”

“Back in 1998, I had to navigate through a passage on that reef in the midst of a storm, so I am quite familiar with how fragile this reef eco-system is. I trust that UNESCO is confident that Belize is seriously active in their protection efforts.”

You can follow Captain Paul Watson on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Jorge Cervera Hauser: Underwater photographer, award-winning film producer and ecotourism activist.

“It’s certainly uplifting to read that a reef is recovering, but that doesn’t mean there is not a long way to go. Something categorised as endangered means it’s very close to disappearing, and being removed from that category only means we can barely start doing something about it long term in order to really protect it.”

“Coral reefs everywhere in the world are being affected by many threats such as bleaching, acidification, plastic pollution, invasive species (such as the lionfish in Belize and throughout the Meso American barrier reef), and overload of scuba divers, especially in the most popular reefs. We need to take big steps fixing all of this before it’s too late, and ‘too late’ is long before it’s considered endangered.

A great example of this is Cabo Pulmo, one of the oldest coral reefs in the world and the most northern one in America. It’s a small but special place. What Sylvia Earle would call a hope spot. It was the local community that 20 years ago realised they were affecting the very same reef that provided them with a way of making a living through fishing. Before it was too late, the pushed for strict protection laws, turned it into a National Park, and switched over to sustainable eco-tourism activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving, but in the most responsible way possible through training, certifications, and strict diving schedules that take the heavy impact of divers off the dive spots. In those 20 years, biomass increased by almost 500% and the small reef has flourished and returned to what we think it looked like thousands of years ago.

Another good example is the Revillagigedo Archipelago, also in Mexico, that was recently turned into the largest marine park of America, covering 148,000km2 and it was done while it still is a pristine, almost untouched environment. The challenge there is to implement surveillance and law enforcement against illegal fishing in such a big and remote area.

If we protect these Hope Spots, and do it right, life will flourish around them and the ocean will start to slowly recover.”

You can read a profile of Jorge entitled “Far from Shore” here, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Photo Courtesy Brocken Inaglory/ Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Andrea Marshall: Co-Founder at Marine Megafauna Foundation, Principal Scientist at MMF Global Manta Ray Program and Science Coordinator at WildMe ‘Manta Matcher’.

“It is exciting news. It is so important for our oceans to safeguard critical habitats like these. More than ever, countries are starting to step up and offer comprehensive support to important ocean ecosystems, moving away from ineffective ‘paper parks’ and usingscience-basedd management strategies, to secure effective and lasting protection for these sensitive marine environments. I applaud Belize for their efforts and commend their approach to saving this important heritage site.”
“I have not dived in this location myself but scientists at MMF have collaborated on research in the region on whale sharks, and I am glad that when I visit one day, I might find a flourishing well managed park.”
You can follow Dr. Andrea Marshall on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Recent Articles

Everest: Queues, Theft and Death on the Mountain Once Known as Chomolungma

Everest does not exist as it did a century ago. We have changed the way it is perceived, and should take responsibility for its numerous and consistent casualties.

Part 2: The Skateistan Difference – Skate Schools to Build a Better Future

Jessica Faulkner explains how Skateistan designs gender-inclusive programs in their skate schools and classrooms to empower underprivileged children around the globe.

Alone Across Antarctica Part 3: Nowhere to Hide – Børge Ousland’s World Record Legacy

Norwegian legend Børge Ousland, who navigated unknown landscapes in 1997 to become the first person ever to cross Antarctica alone, has a message for would-be record breakers.