Outside is not free and the promotion of it devalues those that work tirelessly to protect it.
I used to use that # but now it’s one of my worst sayings…why? Because your #outsideisfree space is not free at all but is paid for by someone else. Any responsible landowner knows that owning land is an expensive privilege. Whether that is a reserve manager, farmer, or tax payer- someone is paying to manage and look after a space that allows you to play outdoors, rather than in a gym. And because I think that the outdoors is a million times better than a gym, it irks me that we don’t value it as such.
Many people pay heavily to use gym equipment and have a safe indoor space, while providing a similar space outside is promoted as something that should be free. We therefore devalue the significant effort and cost associate with making that space available. We promote the concept that being outside is a free good for all, when it is really an amazing privilege. When we communicate the perspective that it’s free, we devalue the cost and effort required to look after that space. Especially if it is free of invasive vegetation, has fire breaks to protect infrastructure and includes awesome trails. We are promoting the perspective that we should not have to pay anything (or very little) to run, hike, bike, swim or walk our dogs in the outdoors. But at the same time, we expect a safe, litter free environment that has loads and loads of awesomely groomed trails to explore 24-7.
And what about public spaces? surely #outsideisfree applies to municipal land, neighborhood streets, parks, and nature reserves? These are public lands, roads or spaces that all can use freely? But these are also not free and we are all picking up that bill. We should enjoy them, promote them, and exercise in them but when we #outsideisfree we undermine the massive effort to make that space available to all. They are paid for by municipal, provincial or national taxes which are, in part, paid for by all of us. Increasingly, and this is not just in South Africa, there are less and less resources available to look after these spaces and so we need to value every cent that is allocated to them. To keep them as spaces where we can safely play outdoors, more and more communities are needing to come together to raise the required funds. Think about what is required to look after your local park. Someone must look after the lawn, maintain the paths, pick up litter and, importantly, allocate security to keep it safe. As a South African female who loves the outdoors, this is an immense and rare privilege. I’m not saying that municipalities should not allocate funds to these services, they should, but I think it’s really important to understand that these funds are going to your park, possibly, at the cost of something else. There may also be a government official who is fighting (maybe a losing battle) to protect that budget for your space so let’s acknowledge that and #valuetheoutdoors because it’s most definitely not free.