I’m biologist, a photographer, an environmentalist, and sometimes a runner. I don’t like putting tags on people, but that’s who I am. Sometimes I’m just one of those things, sometimes I’m all of them combined. When the latter happens, you can most certainly find me wandering the “wild areas” surrounding my town. Usually, with a camera in my tiny running backpack. Although I don’t make a habit in running in the golden hours of the day, ideal for landscape photography, I usually take my camera with me just to force me squeeze something out of that plastic light trap. The good old iPhone camera will do if I feel to slothful. The thing is, since I started running off road (pardon, trail running), I became much more aware of the environment around me.
Trail running is very different than… well, usual city running. It might seem like I’m exaggerating, cause running is still running, right? But trust me, it’s a whole nother world. Different shoes, different technique; you need to know your way around so you won’t get lost. Maybe bring a hydration pack cause you spend 1+ hours in the field, dog spray in my case (lots of stray dogs in Romania, packs in the woods), fully charged mobile phone, etc, etc. I could go on with the list. If you’d like to learn more about trail running, there are tons of info online. I’d start here.
The most important part about trail running is the environmental awareness I was mentioning previously. You learn to to be aware of what’s around you. You see the environment you’re running in. You feel it; you thread lightly or you twist your ankle. If you’re not aware, you get eaten by the bear.
What I’ve learned though is just how much we really do impact the environment around us.
The areas I run in are not far away from human establishments. Be it a patchy forest, a hilly trail or a path down by the river, I’m never to far away from my fellow humans. Small towns and villages, housing mostly lower class families, with little to no education, they leave their impact wherever they happen to settle. Wherever humans work or gather socially, their impact is visible. Every place you go, you have to try really hard not to find a piece of plastic, a discarded gadget or tool, degradation caused by livestock or plain and simple littering.
I’m not sure how things are in other countries, but from what I can see, there’s a a correlation between the level of education and the level of environmental pollution in a community. I might be wrong though, as I’ve seen rough places in developed countries from the western side of Europe, so don’t take my word for granted.
Lately, I’ve been working with Adventure Scientists Worldwide and, from their map here you can clearly see that plastic is everywhere. Scientists call the times we live in as Anthropocence, as we humans have “caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts.”
And this is funny to me. As I progress into running and my trails get longer and longer, I get more connected to the land I run on. But in the same time, everywhere I look I see signs of people loosing this connection. They treat the environment like a service one can use with unlimited prescription. And what’s more ironic is that in Romania, there are still lots of communities that depend on the land for their food and income. Some people still use the same techniques their grandparents used to farm the land and cater the livestock.
And I guess I’m just selfish. I don’t like running in garbage.
Stop fucking littering.