Contradictions at the confluence of commerce, Consumption and conservation; Or, An REI shopper camps in the forest, Does anyone notice?

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Abstract

Leave No Trace (LNT) is a United States government educational program guiding outdoor recreationist behavior on public lands. The program consists of seven principles imploring outdoor enthusiasts to "enjoy the outdoors responsibly." This essay employs a political ecology framework, comprised by critical consumption research and political economic analysis, to engage the LNT program across temporal and spatial scales. We illustrate, first, the impossibility of 'leaving no trace' even when adhering to the program's principles. Second, we describe how LNT minimizes local environmental impacts by displacing them to distant locations. Third, we illustrate how LNT obscures connections between the uses of outdoor products and their production and disposal impacts. Along with challenging notions of responsible recreation and ethical consumerism, a close examination of Leave No Trace reveals four mechanisms that produce and maintain program contradictions: the development of private-nonprofit alliances; the indirect enclosure of public conservation areas; the perpetuation of truncated notions of environmental citizenship; and the cultivation of ethical consumer subjects that shop at retail outlets like Recreation Equipment Incorporated (REI). © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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Simon, G. L., & Alagona, P. S. (2013). Contradictions at the confluence of commerce, Consumption and conservation; Or, An REI shopper camps in the forest, Does anyone notice? Geoforum, 45, 325–336. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2012.11.022

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