How the boom in climbing, biking and sailing is costing the earth
In the first of a two-part sport and environment special, Isabella Kaminski reports on how habitat damage, waste, nanotechnology and persistent organic pollutants are increasingly linked to our favourite outdoor pursuits.
Whether for health, love of nature or just for a serious adrenaline rush, millions of us regularly take part in outdoor sports such as climbing, biking or sailing. Although true aficionados are out in all weathers, braving the rain and snow, Britain’s lush rolling hills and temperamental waters are most enticing at this time of year.
According to the Outdoor Industries Association, 43 per cent of the UK population takes part in outdoor activities at least once a month, with 35 million people hiking every year in the National Parks alone. But growing evidence suggests that these relatively green activities, powered by human muscle, wind or water, have hidden environmental costs.
David Cole, a research geographer at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute based in the US state of Montana, says the impact of outdoor sports is typically very intense but highly localised: 'The general populace is probably largely unaware that their activities, when multiplied by the effects of everyone else out there, can have a significant effect. But I think it is widely recognised that these sports are not completely eco-friendly.'