Dawn… somewhere in rural England

Free Range Themes:

The Great Outdoors

‘The Great Outdoors’ is the Free Range Network's practical guide to camping outdoors – going beyond the everyday kind of camping guide to look specifically at light-weight, low-impact wild camping.

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The Free Range ‘Great Outdoors’ Project focusses on communicating the practical skills for adapting to a low-energy and low-consumption oriented lifestyle. For most people this is a challenging prospect, and so ‘The Great Outdoors’ has been developed around a simple activity which most people are able to undertake with minimal cost and preparation; camping outdoors!

‘The Great Outdoors’ is a Free Range initiative on the simplest route that most people have to learn to reduce their consumption and practice the skills required for a low impact lifestyle – living outdoors.

It's not just that camping offers you a way to learn the skills of ‘simple living’ through ‘living simply’. The reality is that just relaxing on a long walk in the countryside encourages you to slow down, sit back, and operate at the speed of the natural world rather than that of our ‘technological society’ – and this is a far more effective means of reducing energy use and carbon emissions than any gadget that you can buy!

You cannot consume your way
out of a crisis of consumption!

There is a truth about the future of human society that mainstream environmentalism just “doesn't get”. It doesn't get it because the ‘professional’ arm of that discipline is incapable of communicating this concept to its target audience, the affluent middle class:

You cannot consume your way out of a crisis of consumption!

Many campaign groups lost this idea long ago, when they became lobbying rather than a grassroots organisations. Some might claim they get it, but they can’t put the idea across because they fear the media backlash that (they believe) would result.

Many smaller campaign groups, especially those supporting mainstream solutions such as the ‘Green New Deal’, not only fail to get it, but the solutions that they propose will not produce the outcomes that they intend.

‘The Great Outdoors’ arose out of ideas developed from the Free Range Network's “Less is a Four Letter Word” initiative. We had to solve the basic problem of communicating the need for change encapsulated in the question:

In a world of excess consumption and luxury, how do you develop a means of teaching people to live simply?

This is a difficult idea to communicate because it is so divergent to the dominant view of the world, put across through education and the media today, that more is better.

To deliver this message in a clear and unambiguous way is difficult; people are so used to listening to messages about ‘more’, you have to get past that mental conditioning before you can begin to focus on ‘less’ itself.

We had to be inventive; we had to think of a thing which embodied the idea of ‘less’, and then build upon that format to get the deeper point across. After much deliberation the solution turned out to be very simple: we go camping!

Keeping it simple…

The focus of ‘The Great Outdoors’ Project is communicating the most basic of skills that are essential to life – cooking, making fire, heating water and finding shelter – so that we can rediscover our potential as 'human animals'; functional beings who can look after their own needs irrespective of what’s happening around them.

What fifty years of consumerism has done for Britain is de-skill its citizens; if we look at the practical skills possessed by their grandparents, many people today have only the vaguest idea of how to manage their lives without mains services and pre-prepared food.

This is why the focus of ‘The Great Outdoors’ project has been on camping outdoors, and manipulating the basic set of tools that humans have developed for millennia to meet their needs (like fire).

Whether you're an adult or a child, in order to comfortably manage the imminent contraction of energy and other mineral resources we must re-learn the skills that the present generations have lost. Through learning to live comfortably outdoors expressing these skills becomes a natural and essential part of life.

Mainstream society shuns outdoor living as uncomfortable, or old fashioned. Mainstream environmentalism prefers to talk of technological fixes precisely because it means not having to change our lifestyles radically.

In fact, the way to live more securely in the future will be to keep our needs and our lifestyle as simple as possible; preferably as local as possible too, in order to reduce the length of logistics chains that, enabled by globalisation, make society ever more dependent upon complex energy and resource systems.

Camping, and the skills required to do it well, are a space where we can practise that kind of lifestyle, and develop those skills as the basis of a low impact and resilient mode of living as we enter the age of resource depletion

This is not about ‘prepping’ or ‘survival’,
it's about reacquiring the skills to be a ‘human animal’

There are some basic realities we have to accept about the future:

  1. In a world where there is ‘less stuff’ – be that due to climate change, resource depletion, or the geopolitical arguments these create – for one person to have ‘the same’ someone else must have ‘less’;
  2. If you have just enough food to live, somewhere to cook it, and shelter to eat it, then everything else is negotiable – if necessary you can sit in the dark and sing songs together to keep warm;
  3. If you don’t have enough to eat, or shelter to keep warm, or security because everyone else around them is in a similar position, people start getting grumpy and hitting other people.

Far more than ‘green technology’, more than the economics of ‘green new deals’, and certainly more than the catch-all mainstream political solutions of ‘economics growth’ or ‘social mobility’ – what people need to become more resilient, and to adapt to the inevitable ecological crisis that society faces, are the basic skills of being a ‘human animal’: being able to make shelter, being able to keep warm and cook simply with very little, and working co-operatively with minimal resources to create the basic conditions to support life and community.

In the end that is what ‘The Great Outdoors’ is here to help people find; the skills of ecological adaptation. These skills are very basic. What people lack is the space and the time to practice using them. Camping is a means to do that. Yes, ordinarily it can be a way of having a cheap holiday, or getting away from everyday life with friends. However, if you specifically try to camp and live simply while away, those skills – brought back into your everyday lifestyle – can be the gateway to adapting to the ecological crisis.