In my American youth, there was a rude phrase describing kids acting up: “showing your butt”. It seems some tourists are now taking this literally.
Recently, tourists have been stripping down and photographing themselves at the world’s iconic locations to the bewilderment of some and the disgust of others. Social media is abuzz as tourists get snaps of their uncovered backsides at national parks, on top of mountains, and at World Heritage sites.
The desire to reveal one’s naked glory is not a new thing, as streakers at sporting events and the devotees of nude beaches and nudist camps demonstrate. But this trend of “naked tourism” reveals something more than just bare bottoms – and it may call for some active interventions.
Exposing the reasons for baring it all
In 2010, a French-born exotic dancer filmed herself stripping on the sacred monolith Uluru in central Australia. Some labelled this a “publicity grab”.
In early 2015, three young Frenchmen were charged with public exposure and pornography, given suspended sentences, fined, deported and banned from visiting Cambodia for four years after stripping down at Angkor Wat.
Lest we think this is a French thing, North Americans and Australians have bared their backsides at Machu Picchu in Peru. This led CNN to warn tourists to “watch out for bare butts”.
In the selfie era, attention-seeking and shock value are clear individual motivations. But perhaps there is more to it.
Social media is certainly encouraging the practice. A good example of this is the Naked At Monuments Facebook page, which describes its purpose as “we get naked around the world”. There is also the My Naked Trip blog. Together, these indicate naked tourism may be an emerging trend rather than an oddity.
Insulting the host community
Some travellers may forget that where they travel is not their home, and that cultural sensitivities may differ greatly.
While some cultures view revealing the body and its parts as an act of appreciation, others have quite different views. When tourists insist on imposing their values against their hosts’ wishes, profound emotions can be sparked. These may included anger, dismay and hurt.
In response to the stripping performance on Uluru, Aboriginal performer Jimmy Little communicated the hurt such a disrespectful act can inflict:
We are a proud race like every race in the world. We have sacred sites and we have deep beliefs that if people cross that line, they’re really almost spitting in your face, or slapping you in the face and saying ‘I can live my life the way I want to’.
In the Angkor Wat case, local authorities acted with some anger at the insult to the ancient, sacred temple complex. A spokeswoman for the Apsara Authority, the agency that manages Angkor Wat, said:
The temple is a worship site and their behaviour is inappropriate. They were nude.
How to (ad)dress this issue
The first line of defence is regulations with penalties that are enforced.
In the Angkor Wat case, the governing authorities enforced strong penalties on the young men for their actions. But for countries dependent on tourism, it takes considerable will to go down this path. The ongoing tolerance of bikinis on beaches in Muslim countries – albeit sometimes on restricted sites such as gated resorts or islands – attests to this.
Tourism between cultures is a moral space as much as it is a commercial one. The question is: in a time of creeping commercialism, individualism and me-oriented cultures, how can we ensure the cross-cultural encounters of tourism are respectful of the host’s cultures and values?
Codes of conduct are one tool for consumer education of travellers. The authority governing Angkor Wat responded to the naked tourists by updating visitor protocols in multiple languages.
Few know a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism exists. It claims:
Tourists have the responsibility to acquaint themselves, even before their departure, with the characteristics of the countries they are preparing to visit.
Tourism is based on hospitality, and this requires respect for hosts. They want visitors to voluntarily display respect.
Climbing Uluru is a great example of this. The Anangu traditional owners do not want visitors to climb this sacred place, but still do not ban it outright. One reason is deeply spiritual: the Anangu want visitors to respect their values and choose not to climb.
Such an approach has much to teach us about the meaning of travel between cultures. While today’s tourists travel freely to enjoy the world’s treasures, it does not mean such travel should be completely uninhibited.
Different cultures hold different values, and the joy of travel should come from engaging with these differences and learning from them. Responsible tourism built on respect ensures a warm welcome.
Denim jeans – whether ripped, straight, flared, vintage or raw – are one of the world’s most-loved garments. But from fibre to wardrobe, they have a considerable ecological footprint.
Given the diversity of cotton growing enterprises and clothing producers around the world, tracking the environmental impact of a pair of cotton jeans is no simple feat.
But as a denim-wearer you can make more sustainable choices by buying responsibly, extending your jeans’ life with gentle washing and choosing to repair, not replace.
In this guide we’re looking at the key stages of jeans’ life cycle: cotton cultivation; spinning and dyeing; manufacturing, distribution and retailing; and what happens after you get them home.
Let’s begin with the cotton crop, in which water and pesticide use are prominent environmental issues.
Cotton is a thirsty crop, using 3% of the world’s irrigation water on 2.2% of global arable land. However, better management can reduce water wastage and improve efficiency.
Like humans, insects and bugs are attracted to the pillowy white fluff that is actually the fruit of cotton. Traditional cotton farming is chemically intensive, but genetically altered cotton varieties and innovations in integrated pest management have almost halved insecticide use (from 25% to 14% of global insecticide sales) since the 1990s.
Organic cotton crops use no synthetic chemicals, but yields are typically lower than that of conventional cotton, and organic cotton represents less than 1% of the 25 million tonnes of cotton grown globally. Its water consumption is similar to non-organic cotton.
However, organic producers in developing countries can charge a premium for their crops and aren’t reliant on synthetic insecticides and pesticides. If you want to buy organic cotton jeans, you can check for brands accredited by the Global Organic Textile Standard.
To improve cotton cultivation standards globally, the not-for-profit organisation Better Cotton Initiative was established in 2005 to promote more sustainable cotton growing, with better practices across water use, land and pest management and social indicators. Major fashion retailers like Levis Strauss & Co., H&M, The Gap, Kathmandu and Burberry are focusing on sourcing Better Cotton, organic, or recycled cotton for their clothing.
Spinning, dyeing and manufacturing
The process of spinning fibre into yarn, yarn into cloth, and manufacturing cloth into clothes represents some 70% of the total energy consumption of creating a pair of jeans.
The iconic indigo colour and the broken-in look of denim are the result of chemically intensive and high water use treatment processes that can take a toll on workers’ health and safety and impact the environment.
Leading denim brands are actively promoting techniques that limit the chemical and water intensity of wet processing, like enzyme finishing, laser etching and ozone treatments.
Initiatives such as Zero Discharge of Hazardous Waste work across the apparel supply chain to tackle this problem. You can check their website for a list of brands that have committed to better practises.
It may come as a surprise, but a large part of the environmental impact of a pair of jeans occurs after you buy them – how you launder and care for your jeans, and for how long, can be crucial in minimising denim’s ecological footprint. Throw-away fashion is a huge problem: a survey of 1,500 British women found the majority of garments (not just jeans) are worn as few as seven times.
You can minimise your jeans’ footprint simply by washing and drying them less often. We often launder far more often than needed, and overwashing may be more from habit than actual dirtiness of garments. In a 2012 study, participants wore the same pair of jeans unwashed for three months with no ill effects. Any smells or stains were simply managed through airing or spot cleaning.
Jeans have a patina of use that factories work hard to simulate – but you can develop your own patina through wear over a lifetime.
New business models promote a circular approach to consumption: you can rent your jeans from Mud jeans, and at the end of your jeans’ life, Mud will collect them for reuse or recycling.
Easy steps for buying greener
If buying new, purchase from retailers actively sourcing responsibly grown cotton. Check for standards and certifications like Better Cotton or the Global Organic Textile Standard.
Look for retailers that promote environmentally friendly processes, such as enzyme-washed denim or waterless denim. You can dig into your denim retailer’s sustainability statements on their website to see if they have signed up to initiatives to tackle hazardous chemicals, such as Zero Discharge of Hazardous Waste, or if they have their own scheme in place.
Remember that the most sustainable pair of jeans is the pair you already own. Care for your jeans by laundering them lightly and less often, using a cold wash cycle and line drying. Freshen them up between washes by hanging them in the sun or in a steamy bathroom.
Most importantly, extend their life by repairing them if damaged, and give them that patina of use through wear.
Studying the catastrophe that has been Australian climate and energy policy these past 30 years is a thoroughly depressing business. When you read great work by Guy Pearse, Clive Hamilton, Maria Taylor and Phillip Chubb, among others, you find yourself asking “why”?
Why were we so stupid, so unrelentingly shortsighted? Why did the revelation in 2004 that John Howard had called a meeting of big business to help him slow the growth of renewables elicit no more than a shrug? Why did policy-makers attack renewable energy so unrelentingly?
About now, readers will be rolling their eyes and saying either “follow the money, stupid!” or “they are blinded by their marketophilia”. Fair enough, and they have a point.
My recently published paper, titled “Wind beneath their contempt: why Australian policymakers oppose solar and wind energy”
outlines the hostility to renewables from people like former treasurer Joe Hockey, who found the wind turbines around Canberra’s Lake George “utterly offensive”, and former prime minister Tony Abbott, who funded studies into the “potential health impacts” of wind farms.
It also deals with the policy-go-round that led to a drop in investment in renewables.
In a search for explanations for this, my paper looks at what we academics call “material factors”, such as party donations, post-career jobs, blame avoidance, diminished government capacity to act, and active disinformation by incumbents.
I then turn to ideological factors such as neoliberalism, the “growth at all costs” mindset, and of course climate denial.
Where it gets fun – and possibly controversial – is when I turn to psychological explanations such as what the sociologist Karl Mannheim called “the problem of generations”. This is best explained by a Douglas Adams quote:
Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Over the past 50 years, white heterosexual middle-class males with engineering backgrounds have felt this pattern particularly keenly, as their world has shifted and changed around them. To quote my own research paper:
This loss of the promise of control over nature occurred – by coincidence – at the same time that the British empire disintegrated, and the US empire met its match in the jungles of Vietnam, and while feminism, civil rights and gay rights all sprang up. What scholars of the Anthropocene have come to call the “Great Acceleration” from the 1950s, was followed by the great (and still incomplete) democratisation of the 1960s and 1970s.
The rising popularity of solar panels represents a similar pattern of democratisation, and associated loss of control for those with a vested interest in conventional power generation, which would presumably be particularly threatening to those attracted to status, power and hierarchy.
Consider the cringe
Here are a couple more ideas and explanations that didn’t make the cut when I wrote the research paper. First up is the “biological cringe” – analogous to the “cultural cringe”, the self-loathing Australian assumption that all things British were better.
In Ecology and Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies, the historian Tom Griffiths notes that:
Acclimatization societies systematically imported species that were regarded as useful, aesthetic or respectably wild to fill the perceived gaps in primitive Australian nature. This “biological cringe” was remarkably persistent and even informed twentieth-century preservation movements, when people came to feel that the remnants of the relic fauna, flora and peoples, genetically unable to fend for themselves, should be “saved”.
Second, and related, is the contempt and hatred that settler colonialists can feel towards wilderness, which in turn morphs into the ideology that there should be no limits on expansion and growth.
This means that people who speak of limits are inevitably attacked. One good example is Thomas Griffith Taylor (1880-1963), an Australian scientist who fell foul of the boosters who believed the country could and should support up to 500 million people.
Having seen his textbook banned in Western Australia for using the words “arid” and “desert”, Taylor set sail for the United States. At his farewell banquet at University of Sydney, he reinterpreted its motto Sidere mens eadem mutate (“The same spirit under a different sky”), as “Though the heavens fall I am of the same mind as my great-great-grandfather!”
I am anticipating that at least four groups will object to my speculations:
(vulgar) Marxists, for whom everything is about profits; positivists and Popperians, who will mutter about a lack of disprovability; deniers of climate science, who often don’t like being described as such; and finally, those who argue that renewables cannot possibly provide the energy return on investment required to run a modern industrial economy (who may or may not be right – we are about to find out).
Reader, of whatever category, what do you think?