How to behave in nature, deep-rooted civic values
In summer, more people visit the sea and the mountains, and unconsciously we put ourselves to the test again, as a society, in terms of the way we relate to nature. Analysing our civility will help us to maintain the self-critical spirit necessary for personal and collective growth. If nature is everything, so is civility.
Whether due to leisure practices or industrial activity, in Catalonia in recent decades 54% of species living in rivers and lakes have disappeared, 30% from agricultural areas and meadows, and 10% from forests and scrubland. The conclusions of this study, conducted by the Department de Territori i Sostenibilitat, point to human actions such as the alteration of natural habitats, soil exploitation, and climate change, but the reality is that we can all contribute if we carry out uncivil or disrespectful behaviour when visiting natural areas.
The human footprint
Whether on holiday or walking around our environment, we have surely all witnessed uncivil behaviour that endangers the natural environment and even people’s safety. We are referring to attitudes such as making noise, littering the environment, leaving waste, disturbing or harming wildlife, disturbing the tranquillity of other people, especially local residents, or reckless behaviour such as smoking or lighting fires in areas at risk of fire.
As tourists, we look for quiet places where we can enjoy nature, but it will not always be the case with other visitors. And while everyone may have different concepts of hiking, picnics, or tranquillity, there are limits such as leaving waste or making too much noise that cross the line of civility in these spaces.
Code of conduct in National Parks
In recent years, virtually all natural parks in Catalonia have created codes of conduct or recommendations that all visitors have to follow with a single objective: to preserve the territory. This is the case of the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, which welcomes more than half a million visitors annually. Such many visitors can jeopardize the biodiversity of the area, and even the safety of hikers if the right measures are not taken. So, what are the rules?
Before the hike
- Find information about where you are going, what the area is like, the weather, and what route you want to follow. Bringing the right equipment will be key to having a good experience.
- Prepare meals according to the duration of the hike and always taking into account the waste that we can generate, since we will have to take it with us until we can dispose of it properly.
- If we take our pets, we should keep them on a leash and take care of their hydration.
- If we take our vehicle, respect the speed limits, and do not make more noise than necessary. When parking, try to park in designated and marked areas.
- Use public transportation to access the park whenever possible.
During the hike
- Do not leave the marked route to avoid getting lost, but above all, avoid stepping into areas that are not intended for visitors, so as not to damage the fauna and flora.
- Keep a safe distance between other hikers or cyclists.
- Swimming in rivers and natural pools is not allowed, since although it may seem like a natural activity, the reality is that it can alter and pollute the water.
- Eat in the authorized areas. And if the route does not allow it, try to do it without leaving residues.
- Lighting fires is prohibited. A measure that is especially enforced in certain areas or periods of drought, but that applies to all natural areas. Therefore, neither gas canisters, nor smoking is allowed.
- Do not take anything that does not belong to you, neither stones nor plants. Much less hunting activities. If we visit the area, it is to enjoy it as it is.
Ethics and civility, a personal commitment
In short, complying with the standards previously described is nothing more than an act of civility that, if it does not come from within, it will come from compliance with the current regulations. We recommend you read “Educar la convivència. La pràctica del civisme” by the philosopher Francesc Torralba, a brief document that deepens and makes us reflect on the relationship between civic values and ethics.
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