Rss

Outdoor Economy

Outdoor Entrepreneurs on Public Land: Risk, Reward, and Government Shutdown

A look into the benefits and history of public lands and national parks and the risks of doing business with the government

Public lands are incredibly valuable to the economy and often bring a sense of national pride and enjoyment. 48% of entrepreneurs surveyed by Small Business Majority agreed that access to public lands and other outdoor opportunities was a large reason why they live and do business in their state and “90% believe public spaces that draw tourists could boost business for local restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and more for drawing visitors”. There are many outdoor entrepreneurs who have carved out a successful niche tied to public lands that provides them with a prosperous and enjoyable lifestyle. Yet, there are also risks and sacrifice when your business is tied to land controlled by the government.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are over 6,555 national parks worldwide that are defined as: “conservation of wild nature for posterity and as a symbol of national pride”. The United States is a recognized leader in the history of preservation of public land starting with president Andrew Jackson signing legislation to protect the Arkansas Hot Springs in 1832, then President Abraham Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864, and President Ulysses S. Grant signing legislation to establish Yellowstone National Park as the first internationally recognized National Park in the world in 1872. Later, Theodore Roosevelt greatly expanded land conservation by protecting more than 150 million acres of public land and establishing 5 national parks during his lifetime. The efforts of private citizens like Galen Clark and John Muir were instrumental in influencing government officials in order to make conservation legislation happen. Today, the United States has 401 sites and 84 million acres of land under the protection of the National Park Service. The majority of national parks provide outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities for millions of visitors every year.

YosemiteOne of the most famous of these parks in the United States is Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was given it’s name in 1851 by Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor who spent time with indian hunters of the Mariposa Battalion and misunderstood “Yosemite” as the name of the Ahwahneechee tribe that the Battalion was searching for. “Yohhhe’meti” actually meant “they are killers” in the native language of the Ahwahneechee referring to the soldiers. In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed a law that protected 1500 acres in the Yosemite Valley. Thanks to an epic meeting between John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt in the Yosemite Valley in 1903, the protection was expanded to the surrounding mountains and eventually to the 761,268 acres protected in the park today.

 

Over 3.7 million people visit Yosemite each year to hike through the 800 miles of trails among the giant Seqouias, rock climb the granite boulders or 3300ft peak of El Capitan, ski through the majestic slopes in winter, or raft the Merced River. Many outdoor entrepreneurs, guides, and park rangers lead groups on various excursions through the park’s vast expanses of biodiversity.

On Yosemite’s 123rd birthday, all visitors are being sent home and businesses are being shut down. This is true for all the government run national parks and wildlife refuges across the United States. Over 21,379 National Park employees are being furloughed due to the government shutdown that happened October 1, 2013.

That is just one of the risks of doing business on public land.

It often takes a lot of work to wade through the bureaucracy in order to get a permit to provide a service in a national park or wildlife refuge. Permits can sometimes be granted through an application process. There are also opportunities to bid on government contracts in order to become a concessionaire. If one should become fortunate enough to win the bid, they must operate under the strict guidelines outlined in the contract. The benefits will sometimes result in the exclusive right to run certain trips and provide services on the land. This can be very rewarding and give access to places where others are forbidden. Some issues can arise from the strict scheduling, pricing, and numbers of clients that are allowed at one time. All of that needs to be taken into consideration before accepting the terms of the contract. I know many operators who have done very well providing ferry tours to national parks and wildlife refuges, although sometimes they are required to run regardless of the number of passengers.  They count on the times of plenty to make up for the slow times.  It can sometimes be a delicate balancing act.

There are many risks and rewards for doing business on public land. Any entrepreneur who is interested in going through the process must consider all the consequences before taking action. Try to go through every scenario and make a plan. Many things can affect your business that are beyond your control, even a government shutdown.

How does Outdoor Recreation Inspire Scientific Discovery and Innovation?

 

BenFranklinDuplessis

Did Ben Franklin discover Kite-boarding?

“When Ben Franklin was 9, his eldest brother was lost at sea, still Ben never lost his love for the water.

On a pleasant day, while young Ben was flying a kite, he decided to go for a swim.  Still wanting to fly his kite but reluctant to leave the water, it occurred to him he need not forgo one diversion for the other.  While in the water he let the kite pull him across the pond without the least fatigue and the greatest pleasure imaginable!”

(“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv)

Could this event have led Ben Franklin to discover electricity and kite boarding!?

Ben Franklin did spend a lot of time playing outside as a child and was insatiably curious about what he encountered. Franklin’s curiosity would later inspire him to write theories about electricity, weather, ocean currents, and other discoveries that influenced many of the innovators who would follow.

Many scientists and inventors that have led to the technology and inventions we take for granted today have been inspired by their time recreating outside and observing nature.  Nikola Tesla was known to take long walks and spend time at the park contemplating his many theories.  Much of the modern wireless technology was developed from his ideas. 

How does Outdoor Recreation in natural areas inspire innovation?

Outdoor recreation in natural areas has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being.  According to a number of studies conducted over the last 25 years, unstructured physical activity in the outdoors inspires natural curiosity, improves social and emotional development, enhances perception and motor skills, builds creativity, encourages self-expression, and develops appreciation for the environment.

In a Janaury 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Burdette and Whitaker show that free play outdoors promotes problem solving and decision making, which is one of the highest executive functions.  Several small studies along with surveys of parents and teachers have shown that free play also reduces attention deficit disorder and improves focus.

Our experiences shape the way we view the world.

Children that play outside see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem and are exposed to natural laws. Children that spend time in the natural world are less fearful of it.

Many people in the developed world spend most of their time disconnected from the outside world.  From their home, to the car, to school or the office and back, people do everything they can to keep a barrier between them and nature.  The average American child spends less than 30 minutes in outdoor unstructured play.  Studies have shown that the sedentary, plugged in lifestyle may be responsible for the 200% rise in obesity and trepidation in the outdoors. A 2009 study showed that 62% of children surveyed in developed countries had a fear of natural events such as snow, thunder, and rain.  Inventors like Franklin and Tesla embraced natural events as opportunities to gain a better understanding of the world.

Outdoor Recreation is exercise for your brain.

Physical activity in natural areas has also been shown to increase attentiveness and greatly improve the brains ability to learn and retain information. Physical activity causes the brain to function more efficiently through a process called neurogenesis, where new brain cells are produced stimulating BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which has been nicknamed “fertilizer for the brain”.

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning” according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  Some of the highest performing schools in math and science in the world are incorporating physical activity as part of the curriculum. “Exercise and the Brain” has been the focus of several courses led by Wendy Suzuki, associate professor of neuroscience at New York University.

Outdoor recreation is not just Childsplay.

Canadian researchers found that physical activity greatly improved the cognitive function and physical well-being of elderly adults analyzed over two to five years in a 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An understanding of nature is being encouraged by many businesses.  Companies such as IBM, GE, Boeing, Airbus, Nike, Levi’s, Johnson & Johnson and others are now encouraging their engineers to spend time observing nature in order to design the products of the future. The study of natural systems has led to incredible nature inspired innovations on desalinating water, architectural design, powerful adhesives, medicines, aviation design, and extremely strong and lightweight materials.

 

766px-Kitesurfer_in_closeup_exmouth_devon_arpOutdoor recreation has also been shown to reduce employee stress and stress related absences causing an increase in productivity and morale in the work place.

“Let My People Go Surfing” was the attitude and book title of Yvon Choinand, CEO of Patagonia. He attributes Patagonia’s increase in sales from $20 million to $100 million from the mid 1980s to 1990 to the culture of happy, motivated people that worked for the company and often went recreating outdoors during lunch breaks and weekends.

Whether raising a child, improving grades, stimulating a business, or developing the next genius, breakthrough invention, it might be time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Top Scientists, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs look to Nature for Inspiration and Guidance

 

creepy toad foto
Who is the most influential educator in the world?

There is no one who has taught more people or created more things that we often take for granted. She has taught every one of the greatest scientist from Aryabhata to Albert Einstien. She showed André-Jacques Garnerin how to make a parachute and taught the Wright Brothers how to fly. She showed Ben Franklin electricity, taught Alessandro Volta how to harness it, and showed Nikola Tesla how to transport it. She has been responsible for the first sparks of fire to the modern match. She is the mother of all inventions from every industry from agriculture to drinking water.

 

Yet she has often been ignored, taken advantage of, and abused.

Now, top scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs are once again looking to her for guidance.

Even billionaire, Sir Richard Branson looks to her for advice on how to direct the many companies of the Virgin Brand. He calls her the “Original Entrepreneur” and insists that it is crucial we learn from her if we are to continue to enjoy the wealth that we have derived from her for hundreds of centuries.

Companies like Boeing, have sent their top engineers to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to study her in order to come up with solutions for better aviation design. Nike and General Electric have also looked to her to create more effective products and systems.

She is teaching scientists and engineers from the Sahara desert project how to harness energy from the sun and grow food using saltwater in one of the world’s most hostile climates. Projects like these could lead to reforestation of deserts and new ways of sustaining struggling communities.

Mother Nature has had over 3.8 billion years for research and development to come up with innovative systems and designs that are extremely efficient and create zero waste. She is open to teach anyone who is willing to take the time to study with her.

Are we taking time to study?

As people in developed countries spend more time in front of electronic screens, it becomes more important to find opportunities to help them learn from the great educator that lies right outside in the natural world. That is why it so important to create opportunities for young people to learn from her.

More companies are recognizing the value of studying nature as a means for developing systems and design even though it is often counter intuitive for their workforce. Not only can new products and services be developed, but also systems of building a more harmonious relationship between nature and business. As Branson puts it, “…we must recognize the value of the natural assets on our balance sheets” .

In addition to traditional education, we should encourage students to re-learn how to ask questions and look to the great educator of nature for answers. They can then use what they learn to develop new technologies and systems, learn how to profit from her abundance and at the same time find ways to take care of her as she ages.

These are the critical thinking skills that innovative companies will be searching for.  How we use what we learn from the lessons of mother nature will determine our future.

Pay attention because class is in session!

 

_____________________________

 Richard Branson:  Mother Nature, the Original Entrepreneur

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/4282197

http://saharaforestproject.com/projects/qatar.html

http://www.edinformatics.com/inventions_inventors/

What is Environmental Education by Definition?

There are many definitions for environmental education depending on where you look.

Although definitions may vary, there seems to be some common agreements to what it is and what it should be.

Environmental education is often thought of when teaching about the environment and conservation.  Sometimes it is referred to as experiential learning outside and may include things like outdoor classrooms, outdoor adventures, and outdoor recreation.  It also often refers to learning about natural processes in the classroom.

This video is a compilation of various definitions of environmental education from some leading organizations and authorities.

 

What is your definition for environmental education?

Please leave it in the comment box below.

Conventional Economics and Nature: Related or a Form of Brain Damage?

David Suzuki is a scientist, author, and lecturer that has become one of the most recognizable voices for conservation. He makes the argument in this video that conventional economics is a form of brain damage He goes on to argue that economist are fundamentally disconnected with the real world. Whether you agree or disagree, it is worth understanding his point of view.

css.php