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Geotagging nature – gatekeeping or conservation?

Geotagging nature

If you aren’t familiar with geotagging, it is a feature on platforms like Instagram that allows users to tag the specific location of where they took a picture. This post dives into the topic of geotagging nature – is it gatekeeping or conservation? 

Anti-geotagging nature

In theory, geotagging provides context for posts. But for wild outdoor places, geotags are resulting in increased traffic, environmental damage, and encroachment upon wildlife and delicate ecosystems. 

Even Leave No Trace, who has been around for more than 40 years, recently published a social media guide. In the guide, they discourage geotagging specific locations. Instead, they suggest tagging general locations because it can lead to major impacts on particular wild places.

Pro-geotagging nature

On the other side of the issue, there is an argument that not geotagging is a form of racism, gatekeeping, or elitism. 

In the blog post, 5 reasons why you should keep geotagging, the author Danielle Williams says, “It involves individuals—usually those unaffected by structural racism and privileged to have grown up hiking and camping—asserting their self proclaimed authority over who should and shouldn’t be allowed into certain outdoor spaces.”

Geotagging nature
Geotagging nature

I’ll admit, while reading that article, I thought about how privileged I was to grow up camping and hiking with my family. From a very young age, I had access to the tools and resources needed to find beautiful places. My heart is torn because while I believe everyone deserves to explore the outdoors, I can’t seem to escape into the wild without stumbling upon trash, graffiti, or destroyed trails. 

I believe that everyone should have access to public land, no matter gender, ethnicity, size, age, skin color, ability, or disability. We should all have access and all have the right to experience these beautiful places.

But I also strongly believe in knowing before you go, being prepared, and following the Leave No Trace principles. You can read my tips on how to love the outdoors (even more) here

I often think back to the time I was backpacking out of the Grand Canyon on a 100-degree day and passed two people in flip-flops. They were starting a 10-mile hike with one bottle of water because they wanted to see the infamous Supai waterfall. They put themselves in a deadly situation and I hope they are okay… 

How to love the outdoors

Geotagging poses a lot of big questions

Geotagging poses a lot of big questions without answers and ultimately, it’s up to individuals to decide how their online lifestyles affect nature. 

In my opinion, taking care of these places isn’t about keeping people out, it’s about teaching people how to care for nature when they are enjoying it. 

It is up to us as social media users and consumers to take accountability for the way we share on social media. And when sharing the wild places we love so much, it is up to us to educate and inspire the next generation to care for the outdoors. 

What you can do

When posting on social media, here are two actions you can take to spread information and stewardship awareness:

  • Include Leave No Trace principles in your caption. One of the principles is to know before you go. If you posted a photo of a location that required a permit? Include that in your caption. Was it a super tough hike that required special gear? Let your followers know. 
  • Ask yourself why you are geotagging or sharing in the first place. If you are really concerned about a location being “over-loved”, do you really need to share its beauty but not its location? 
Adventure Blog | Yosemite National Park

At the end of the day, it’s not my job to decide who gets to go outside and where. I don’t want to assume who will take care of nature or not. 

My DMs and comment section are ALWAYS open to anyone who wants to see these places but aren’t sure how to start, what gear they need (or don’t), how to research hikes, etc.

If people genuinely want to know the location of my photo, of course, I’ll share it – with the information they need to do it safely and responsibly. 

What do you guys think? Geotag or no geotag? (Please be kind and remember shaming or bullying is NEVER the answer.) 


Geotagging nature | Adventure Photography | Leave No Trace

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