Environmental Impact of Camping


All ecosystems of the world create favorable conditions for the life of humans since they clean water in rivers, eradicate carbon dioxide from the air and provide food. Apparently, they are very important ecosystem services. The natural world provides humans with all benefits that people use gratis. However, it is crucial to protect the natural ecological processes since it will benefit not only organisms who live there but also humans. People are dependent on ecosystems for numerous resources they could never create themselves. As a result, human actions directly affect ecosystems that people need for survival. Human intrusion affects the biosphere and leads to extinction of flora and fauna, climate change, deforestation, acid rains, and desertification. Apparently, humans often do harm to nature when they have a rest. This paper will discuss the historical background and some stages of camping development, examine the distinctive features of today’s camping and explain how it affects the surrounding wildlife. The air and water pollution as well as animal extinction as major effects of human activity will be also discussed in the paper.

Purpose and Objectives of Paper

The purpose of this paper is to highlight the general features of leisure and recreation activity, namely camping. This paper will analyze the increase in camping and the way it affects the environment. It is impossible to analyze the influence of human activity on the environment without taking into account the historical background of outdoor recreational activities and comparing them to what the humanity has nowadays.

To achieve the aim of the paper, a number of articles and books concerning environmental problems were investigated. The key concepts of recreation, greenhouse effect and air and water pollution are included in this paper to facilitate the understanding of ecological processes.

The Concept of Recreation

People usually underestimate the influence of leisure, recreation and tourism on health. People who are always surrounded by colleagues, communication technologies, and radio and TV programs forget that they need to rest after this twenty-four-hour society.

In fact, many types of enjoyable human activities can be considered as recreation. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines recreation as “something people do to relax or have fun, activities done for enjoyment” (“Recreation,” n.d.). According to this definition, recreation can include a wide range of activities like sightseeing, sports, traveling, and camping, among others.


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Historical Perspective

Camping became popular in a society over a century ago. The establisher of camping as a recreational activity was Thomas Hiram Holding (Camping Info, 2012). Apparently, this activity becomes more popular from year to year. Its popularity can be explained by the increased urbanization and rapid technological development. As a result, people are immensely tired of their offices, houses, and cars where they are constantly limited in space and time. Moreover, they are always in a hurry to meet their working deadlines. Modern life is so stressful that people have a strong desire to escape from it and strive to connect with the natural world, for example by sleeping in a tent under the stars and cooking food on fire.

In 1901, the Association of Cycle Campers was founded. In the beginning, it comprised only thirteen members. Camping as a recreational activity soon became very popular and in 1906, there were several hundred members in the club (Adams, n.d.). In 1932, the International Federation of Camping Clubs was formed, and national camping clubs were included in the international one (Adams, n.d.). In 1930s, a healthy way of life became more and more popular, and people began to pay more attention to the outdoor activities. By 1960s, the popularity of camping increased a lot so that campgrounds became the standard place for spending holidays and celebrating birthdays.

Preset-Day Camping and Its Implications for the Environment

Most of modern recreational campgrounds are equipped with conveniences such as electricity and some of them even provide Wi-Fi internet access. In fact, all these aspects make camping comfortable even in comparison with an ordinary vacation. Moreover, campgrounds offer a wide range of activities for all family members, that is why camping is so popular in the last few decades. Talking about the location of campgrounds, they are usually situated near rivers where people can enjoy swimming, fishing and boating. Furthermore, camping grounds may be located in mountainous areas where people can take part in some kinds of adventure sports like hiking, mountaineering or rafting.

Camping is a highly popular outdoor activity, but the increase in public interest could be dangerous for rural areas. The reason is that places that once were wild now could be urbanized or changed under the influence of the civilization. These changes include animal extinction as well as water and air pollution.

One of the disadvantages is that camping requires the use of cars to get to the campground that augments carbon dioxide emissions. Apparently, when fuel burns, it produces this dangerous gas. The problem is that carbon dioxide emissions cause climate changes. There is less than 1% of carbon hydroxide in the air, and this amount is not dangerous. However, when it is more than 10%, it is poisonous (Vaidyanathan, 2014). With regard to carbon dioxide, it is the main greenhouse gas, while it catches solar radiation and is responsible for the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases are useful for keeping heat in the atmosphere, but everything is good in moderation; thus, a huge amount of gases causes the gradual increase in an average temperature of the planet‘s atmosphere. Hereby, this gas is responsible for the catastrophic change in climate conditions.

When people rest in campgrounds, they exploit the environment for recreational purposes. However, outdoor recreational activities can be non-consumptive, for example, hiking, camping and photographing. Nevertheless, the impact of non-consumptive activities can be significant, thereby leading to pollution, wildlife harassment and damage to vegetation. Experienced campers often say, “Take only photographs, leave only footprints” (Durham, 2015). While camping, humans should minimize their impact on the environment. People often dump garbage when they leave the location. Thus, it is of paramount importance to collect all the rubbish in order to avoid pollution. Responsible garbage disposal also plays a great role in protecting the nature; therefore, if campers from around the world know how to properly dispose waste, then they will not have a problem with pollution or garbage.

People may not be aware of possible environmental consequences of their camping holidays. The individual impact of a single person may not be so harmful to nature, but collectively, people could create a real ecological disaster. Consequently, human activities may lead to air and water pollution and cause the irreversible changes in ecosystem. In fact, forty per cent of rivers in the USA are so polluted that their water is not suitable for drinking and swimming (Laws, 2000). To stop the pollution of water resources people should not wash the dishes or brush teeth in rivers and lakes.

Camping is closely related to biodiversity because the wildlife extinction is mostly caused by human activity. A rich diversity of wildlife attracts people who enjoy camping. Human activity triggers biodiversity loss due to land and resources overuse. Moreover, people disturb wild animals by establishing campgrounds in their living areas, make too much noise, and chop firewood. Thus, people leave the wildlife without food and shelter and make the survival of animals impossible.

Camping in national parks and viewing wild animals is popular in the USA. In fact, one of the most visited national parks for camping is Yellowstone Park. Talking about Yellowstone Park, it is the home of American bison and wolves (UNESCO, n.d.). When people watch wild animals, they should remember that it is dangerous to disturb them. Sometimes, visitors come too close to animals to watch and take pictures. When an animal feels unsafe, it can be unpredictable; thus, each year, some visitors are injured by them.

A campground that cares about preserving the environment and is interested in protecting natural resources responsibly dumps rubbish, saves water and electricity and encourages the refusal of cars to minimize air pollution. In fact, everyone who enjoys camping should act this way. The environment should be preserved not only for today’s generation but also for the future ones.

Personal Opinions

It is important to remember that people are only guests in the natural environment. The key issue to preserve the environment is to keep in mind that people should make as little impact on nature as possible by promoting recycling, energy efficiency and water conservation.

Beinart and Coates (1995) state that nature is a self-regulating ecosystem, and it can quickly recover from human destructive interference, especially with the help of efficient environmental policy. Despite this, I think it would take a long period of time for the biosphere to recover from, for example, deforestation.

While there are not enough outdoor recreational activities in big cities, campgrounds try to adapt to the demand increase and face problems finding the golden middle without overusing the natural resources. The humanity should find a way to develop recreational activities without overexploiting the resources and by keeping the rural areas clean and green.


People can influence the environment by not only establishing powerful industrial infrastructure and throwing chemicals into the atmosphere. With an increased popularity of recreational activities, measures of ecological support such as waste disposal and recycling, water and electricity saving and non-interference in wildlife should be taken to protect the natural landscapes and species on the edge of extinction. Thus, by protecting the nature, humanity protects itself because people are dependent on the environment, and when they do harm to it, they damage their health.

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