Offroading and nature – between truth and myth

Written by: Aleksandar Veljković

Contemporary ecologists usually regard motorized vehicles as enemy #1 of life on our planet. They talk about cities without cars, sustainable development, renewable energy sources, repeating the same phrases over and over again as mantras with a strong dogmatic power, without feeling the need to substantiate or offer proof for any of the claims. If anyone dares to ask for proof of these, to put it pollitely, half-truths, if anyone dares to call those claims exagerration and asks for scientific tests or measurements, he becomes cast off, mocked, regarded as “barberian”. So contemporary ecology moves in big steps in the direction of a new religion, in which people believe without questioning, and where anyone who doubts any of the dogmas becomes a heretic, rejected by the society which embraced the new religion.

Religious freedom is one of basic human rights, so there’s nothing wrong with the “eco” religion. But, freedom of movement is also one of basic human rights. And that is a right that the eco-preachers want to take away from others, with the excuse that our planet needs to be protected. Eco movements turned into political parties, which established new ecology institutions and authorities as a new church, uplifting the new religion to the state level. And when a new religion evolves into a state religion and starts being forced on the non-believers, when a faith gives itself the freedom to impose a way of life on everyone, agressively changing people’s lives and regulating what they can and cannot do (allegedly pursuing a “higher cause”), that has to sound an alarm in everyone’s mind. By being passive and accepting the imposed rules we’ve agreed to an eco-dictatorship, which gains strength over the years, increasing the repression level every day and limiting the freedom of everyone, no matter if they’re outdoor sports fans, wilderness campers, or even farmers, who cannot live anymore in traditional ways their ancestors have practiced for centuries. And if anyone knows how to live in accordance with nature, it is the farmers. But no! Now there’s a “higher authority”, which dares to tell them that the way they’ve been living for centuries is – wrong!

So where does this all end? When will the ambitions of the so called “protectors” be satisfied? Will it be when all people have been herded into towns with an excuse that nature has to be protected, and those towns girded by barbed wire and watched by armed guards like concentration camps? Are the “ecologists” those that will make Orwell’s 1984 finally a reality?

It all started by expelling cars and motorcycles from protected nature areas for being “unclean” – that was the easiest point to start, gaining the acceptance of the masses which, without giving it much thought, agreed that the environment has to be protected. Then those “protected areas” started expanding rapidly, with a clear tendency to include every uninhabited piece of land in the near future. The next step was explaining that even cyclists are unwelcome in the protected areas no matter that they don’t use combustion engines, and soon even hikers were expelled from the “red zones” – the areas with level 1 of protection (which even entered the legislation of almost every country on the planet).

These eco theories that nature can be protected only by radically expelling people and every form of human activity from it are, to put it mildly, quite absurd. For a start, lets give an answer to the question what is a human being? Are we a part of nature, and if not, when did we stop being part of nature? If a human being doesn’t have the right to live freely on this planet like every other animal species has, what is it exactly that gives the right to ecologists to impersonate God, overrating their own competence and taking action to stop or reroute some processes of natural evolution? How can they be so blind to believe that they can actually change anything? What if it turns out the their activites have only increased repression and the breach of basic human rights above all acceptable levels, and the effect on natural processes was almost non-existent? Is the eco-ideology of contemporary law makers goint to be declared as just another failed historical experiment then, like communism or national-socialism? After it had ruined the lives of billions of people (either through severe restrictions or stripping them of all their possesions by ever rising “eco-taxes” in every aspect of life).

The eco paradoxes

I’ll give you just one of many examples why today’s model of eco protection activity is absurd. Ecologists have recently put a waterfall under protection, imposing strict rules for movement around it. But then came a harsh, cold winter, with lots of snow and ice, and big part of the protected rock of the waterfall broke and fell off under the weight of the ice, which significantly changed it’s geometry. In that way nature itself did something that hundreds, even thousands of visitors moving unrestricted around the waterfall couldn’t do. Should the ecologists have gone a step further, taking snow and ice off the waterfall to prevent natural processes and “preserve” it in the form it was declared a natural monument?

Nature is much stronger than we can ever imagine, and common people moving through it have much less power to influence anything than the ecologists want to make us think in their ever increasing efforts to strengthen the repression and limit our freedom of movement. Severe weather conditions, storms, floods, fires, natural erosion processes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, meteorites that from time to time reach the surface of the earth and provoke local or global disasters, are things that really effect the evolution of this planet and life on it, not man. It would all happen on this planet even if we never existed on it. It’s absurd to speak about our contribution to the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, when we know that 97% of that carbon-dioxide comes from natural sources (but it’s constantly being denied because it doesn’t work for eco-marketing).

So ecology as a contemporary human activity has very little to do with science, and much more with being a ruthless propaganda machine aimed at the abuse of the sincere concern of the average human being for our natural environment. I’m not saying that most eco-activists do not honesty believe that they’re doing something good for the planet, but they’re just being manipulated by a ruthless ideology which turned our ideas of “good” and “evil” upside down, serving the interests of a small elite aimed at achieving absolute control over the population. Once we used to regard nature as a place to “get away from it all”, a place where the absurd rules of modern life can’t reach us. But very soon that will become impossible if we allow the contemporary model of “ecology” to prevail – nature will become off-limits for us, strictly controlled by thermal vision cameras, registering every move we make. So I have a question for the “green” – is that really the bright future you’re looking forward to? Is it really going to make this planet a better place, or maybe your naive thinking is only going to help the elite control the world and soon start charging us for every breath we take?

Ecology and human rights

We’ve reached the key question what is more important – ecology or human rights? Most will probably say that, if the planet is really in danger, then limiting certain human rights is acceptable, because we don’t have a spare one. But, is it really in danger, or is it just that some people want us to believe so in order to make us give up our human rights voluntarily?

Make the comparison for yourself. Under the threat of legal sanctions the rights of billions of people to free movement and spending time in the nature are being severely restricted to achieve a “preservation” goal which is very much debatable, providing very weak evidence for the thesis, and in some cases providing no evidence at all. Huge damage is being inflicted on human rights, people are being hurded like cattle in order to “preserve” some places that would in 99.9% of cases remain completely the same even if we had free access. It’s not our movement through the nature that destroys – the consequences of the movement are quite unnoticable, no matter if it is on wheels or on foot. What destroys is ignorance, the things people do while in nature. The killing of animals, cutting of trees, picking endangered plants and mushrooms, driving without the knowledge how to do it properly, leaving garbage behind, making campfires without obeying the basic precautions. That is why people need to be educated about the nature, instead of being forbidden to go there, only broadening the gap. Once upon a time camping was a real nature lover’s cult all over the world, and today many countries are forbidding wild camping by law. That is an extremely wrong approach.

Why 4×4 overlanding SHOULD NOT be banned?

5 biggest lies spread by ecologists

  1. 4×4 vehicles pollute by their emissions
    Yes, it’s true that combustion engines emit carbon-dioxide and other toxic waste during operation, but their concentration in the usage cycle of a typical recreational vehicle can never reach measurable levels that would come anywhere near to endangering wildlife and plants. Furthermore, modern engines have so much decreased pollution levels that speaking of pollution as a factor of concern is really becoming absurd. We’re not far from the moment when even 4×4 vehicles will receive electrical engines, which will completely eliminate this factor. Unfortunately, this will hardly persuade ecologists to redefine their attitude towards 4×4 vehicles. Why? Because the point is in restricting movement of people, and not sincere concern about emisions. As long as we have the lumber industry, where big, stationary machines emit huge amounts of CO2 in one place, it’s ridiculous to even consider the emisions of a tourist vehicle, which is moving all the time (and when stationary it’s usually with the engine turned off). So it’s a clear example of double standards.
  2. 4×4 vehicles make noise pollution
    At what distance can you hear a gunfire shot? At what distance do you hear a chainsaw? How noisy is a lumberjack’s forest tracktor? And at what distance do you hear a 4×4 vehicle approaching? The sound of a well maintained 4×4 vehicle’s engine with a properly fitted exhaust, if driven economically not exceeding the necessary revs, can surely be regarded as one of the quiter sounds you can encounter while in the wild, so it can hardly contribute to scaring the animals and making any kind of drastic impact on wildlife. In fact, many natural sounds are much more noisy. Roaring of a waterfall, for example, or gurgling of a mountain river, strong rain, thunder, the sounds animals make, even the sound a field full of crickets makes! The animals have no idea if some sound is “natural” or not, they only regard them as known or unknown (so it’s nature won’t affect the frustration level) – it’s an artificial division invented by man. It is quite obvious that a 4×4 vehicle travelling through wilderness blends into the overall sound symphony quite well, and can hardly cause any kind of “sound damage”.
  3. 4×4 vehicles deepen the rutts and cause erosion
    Offroad vehicles are really not as heavy as commonly believed – in average they’re slightly below 2 tons, and some even don’t reach 1.5 tons. On the contrary, the lumber trucks full of wood often weigh more than 20 tons, so only one truck that passes down some forest road causes more damage and rutting than 1000 offroad vehicles passing the same way. And forest roads have a primary function to serve the needs of the lumber industry. So it’s pointless restricting recreational 4×4 vehicle traffic on them, because they can’t have any impact on their condition whatsoever! If used properly, taking care to drive on trails so there is no excessive sliding, pushing of material and digging with the tyres in places where there’s danger of erosion, there’s absolutely no negative impact on nature. It’s not difficult to respect the safe conduct guidelines promoted by Tread Lightly.
  4. 4×4 vehicles endanger other wilderness visitors
    Cars can generally endanger other traffic participants if basic rules aren’t obeyed, which doesn’t mean that cars should be banned. And if we respect rules in town, why not respect them in the countryside too? The basic principle for moving around wilderness (which should apply to everyone, not only the 4×4 owners) is being considerate towards others and their needs. Giving right of way where common logic and elementary decency require us to. So it’s not the offroad vehicle that endangers anyone, but a lack of consideration and traffic culture in the human mind. One of the basic rules for driving around the forests is that you never exceed the speed that allows you to stop almost instantaneously in case of encountering a sudden obstacle. So, the same way you don’t ban the use of highways because of one speeding fool (but you sanction individual behaviour), there’s no reason to ban the usage of forest paths for everyone because irresponsible individuals exist, isn’t it so?
  5. Allowing 4×4 vehicles free access everywhere would cause a massive raid on nature by motorized visitors
    This thesis is rather unfounded and basically paranoid. Offroad vehicles are expensive to own and maintain, and not many people can afford them. And if we consider the phenomena that in most cases the desire for owning an SUV is essentially irrational, which means that very few owners actually buy them for exploring the wilderness, it’s not hard to predict that even lifting all the restrictions of movement wouldn’t pose any risk of “invasion”. Most of the trails probably still wouldn’t see more than several vehicles a month, which is much lower than any concentration that could make a negative impact. You should take into account that people who really buy and equip their offroad vehicles for overlanding trips, who invest quite much to turn them into nomadic homes on wheels that would enable them to get as far as possible from the hectic towns and stay there as long as they can, are true admirers and nature enthusiasts, who deserve to have their right of being in that nature equally respected as other’s. Those aren’t people who never walk and don’t notice anything around them, they are simply people who turned their 4×4 vehicle into a tool which enables them to move easier, reach further and take more equipment, so they would be in a position to stay longer in the quiet, peaceful places which are worth spending time at.

Tolerance and mutual respect is the key

In the end we come to a conclusion that denying the offroad vehicle owners the right to free access in the nature is mostly irrationally and emotionally motivated. Hikers usually don’t like to hear or see a 4×4 vehicle passing by (no matter how rarely that happens), so they’re very keen to use the above mentioned disputable “truths” as arguments to deny offroaders their living space instead of simply admitting their emotional reactions and intollerance. Often the motiv is a subconscious envy – they think that they’ll never be able to afford such comfort level for themselves, so why not simply try to ruin it for those who can? People simply feel better when they convince themselves that not having a 4×4 vehicle is their choice, a matter of principles and life attitude, rather than financially related. But it’s a bad approach and motiv, bringing negative energy where it’s not supposed to be.

Pokretna kuća modernih nomada

So try thinking in a different way. If they already sacrificed many other things in life to afford it (the biggest offroad/overlanding enthusiasts are usually not the really rich guys) it’s a sign that it really means a lot to them. They don’t endanger anyone, and certainly they don’t try to deprive others of the rights they ask for themselves. So the key is in respecting each other’s choices, without trying to deny anyone the rights that we ask for ourselves. Being apsolutely tolerant and caring no matter whether we walk or roll. Because none of us are born on wheels, and the hikers sometimes need the wheels badly. All of us who consider ourselves nature lovers share the same wishes and admire the same beauty, regardless of our choice of travel. Lets give a helping hand to each other, to understand the fellow human better.

Misconceptions of state ecology

The message we can send the lawmakers and institutions in charge of nature administration and protection is to seriously consider the arguments from this text and be courageous to adopt a different, more liberal approach, based on common logic. Abandon the paranoid and restrictive norms and try to trust people a bit more. A few years ago we’ve seen an absurd example in France, where the ministry of ecology protested against a marketing campain for a 4×4 vehicle model using images depicting that vehicle in attractive natural environment. They said that the vendor is suggesting the potential buyers that those vehicles can be used for “breaking the law”. Frankly, that sounds quite absurd – if 4×4 vehicles are not to be used offroad, WHERE are they supposed to be used? ON ROAD? Then what’s the point of their existence? Why don’t they ban selling 4×4 vehicles in France then? Anyway, with such approach by the governments, offroad vehicles are really losing their primary purpose.

Do we want to remain a FREE planet? Do we want nature to remain a beautiful oasis where we can escape from the hectic towns anytime we want? Then put away the cameras, restrictions and watchdogs, don’t pretend to be smarter than you really are, and don’t play God. Just one bigger meteorite can wipe out all life on this planet in a moment, canceling and rendering all your “protection” games meaningless. However hard you try, you cannot change the natural processes. But you can respect your fellow human, respect his right to be free, to feel relaxed and unchained anywhere on this planet, as if it was all his home. So do something that would make the remaining time we’ve got in our lives better. Create and educate, instead of restrict.



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