Bushwalking… camping… four wheel driving… all of these popular Australian leisure activities have undergone an amazing, technology-led revolution over the past 30 years.
Electronics, lightweight materials, alloys, plastic, nylon, even carbon fibre composites have seen the bushwalker’s load reduced. The camper is now able to “glamp” with all the comforts of home – I mean that quite literally – and the modern four wheel driver is now in command of a vehicle which can have a “performance chip” fitted for greater fuel efficiency, power, range or torque. Amazingly mind-boggling stuff.
This is all really great and all, but the commerce-driven outdoor industry (and believe me, it is an industry as shareholder-driven and cutthroat as any other industry out there which seeks to separate the average person from his or her disposable income) with its mostly offshore design and manufacturing ethos has led to the average Australian bushgoer now being a carbon copy of his or her counterpart in France or the USA.
With the same big companies pushing the same “you-beaut” equipment in the same cookie-cutter camping stores around the world, they’ve gone and homogenised everyone. Everyone uses the same stuff in the exact same way and the only way they can differentiate themselves from the masses is to either buy stupidly expensive gear, or super-lightweight gear (or both). The outdoors industry profits while the skillset of the bushgoer is watered down or is veered off on some profit-driven tangent – like the obsession with Mt Everest. Thankfully there is a thriving community of Australian cottage industry gear designers and manufacturers working on innovative designs and using both modern high-tech and traditional natural materials, to help keep some of us sane.
Unfortunately, the internet, the very medium by which I am communicating with you now, has meant that a lot of our traditional bush skills have been smothered through homogenisation. The same people on youtube, Facebook groups, various blogs and forums regurgitate the same drivel across the fibreoptic networks of Planet Earth they saw on TV or read once in a glossy outdoors magazine. It’s a bit of a shame, but there is a solution. We can use that same communications medium to help teach and share our dying bush knowledge before it’s too late and that is ultimately what the League of Bushmen is all about.
Shouldn’t we just let the old ways die off as they always have? Maybe we should, but it won’t happen while I’m still upright and breathing. New paradigm be damned. Sometimes looking backwards is the best way to move forward.