Outdoor industry inclusivity
I have recently been reading various posts on the outdoors being more inclusive and diverse in terms of people getting out and enjoying the what the outdoors have to offer. For me its been a lifetime of being in the outdoors so I am your typical white middle class male who seem to be the target of where its kept exclusive too. I think though there are certain issues which are not being mentioned or overlooked. Certainly in my twenty years in the industry I have seen that women have had a hard time getting the recognition they deserve, often far better smoother and stronger climbers and also far less arrogant in their instruction with clients. I really hope that the industry has moved past that issue and that women are treated as equals depending on ability the same as males.
Having worked in the industry for over twenty years I have never come across racism within the industry. In fact quite the opposite most climbers and mountaineers go on expeditions not just for the climbing or objective but to experience other cultures and different ethnic people. I also don’t see that the sport is exclusive the mountains and crags are open to all, should they wish to go into them. What perhaps is more awareness of safety issues but that doesn’t need to be put across in a way which makes it seem things are exclusive and seem like only the elite and experienced can participate. I don’t really understand why we cant put signs and markers on Ben Nevis whether people like it or not thousands will go up and down each year and accidents could easily be avoided with a few posts and directions, that people won’t like as a suggestion but there is the whole of the Highlands if you want remote and untouched ground.
I work and live most of the year in Kenya where it's much more apparent as to what the real issue is in terms of inclusivity in the outdoors and its money and time. If I didn’t work in the outdoors I would think that I couldn’t afford to be in the sport. It requires money and time to be able to enjoy the outdoors. We also must not forget that it's also a minority sport which by its nature means lots of people don’t actually want to spend a wet weekend in the Lake district. I sometimes felt working at outdoor centres in the UK that we would bring young people from deprived backgrounds and show them how much fun those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford to do it as their sport and passion. Outdoor Education which I hugely believe in has huge benefits to all and I hope that as Covid gets under control centres can open up more and get people through the doors. The benefits of outdoor education go far beyond just getting people interested in climbing, walking or paddling.
I think it's unfair that some posts about inclusivity seem to focus on race, colour or sexual orientation as the main issue as to why the sport is not more widely participated in. The main issue is that it's expensive and requires the time and resources to be able to do it. The UK may think it's an issue but have a look at developing countries and it's really highlighted. Take a walk down the high street in Aviemore when conditions are great or even down the high street in Chamonix you don’t see people on the breadline. I am not ignorant to the fact that people of colour over the years have had a very hard time as with females but I think that has largely passed (I really hope so anyway).
The issue is now more about peoples ability to afford to participate in outdoor sports. I think the main issue is that people would like to have the financial opportunity to make a choice as to what they do in their spare time whether that’s climbing and mountaineering or playing golf or tennis at the weekend. Covid has highlighted that the UK has some serious issues in terms of how many people are really on the breadline and I think arrogant statements about how we make the outdoors more accessible to all is ignoring the fact that many people are just trying to get by. I am very keen to try and bring outdoor eduction and experiences to the less fortunate in Kenya so I am all for the outdoors for all but I think people have been missing the fact that its not a sport which is accessible for all mainly due to time and money.