Ecological Citizen

Ecological Citizen

How recognising ourselves and our clothing as nature can grow our responsibility to protect it.

While I've always loved casual walks in nature, I didn't always feel the same way about hiking. To me, hiking mountains and volcanoes was a form of self-induced torture. Blood surging through my burning muscles, sweat dripping down my face as I gasp for air at high altitude. All the while, my intruding mind is saying: "Just give up Nerida, it's too steep, hard, painful..." and other excuses aimed to distract and deter me from achieving my goal of attaining the summit.

...yet I have come to love hiking in nature because I am able to simultaneously experience joy; the kind of joy that comes from the experience of being alive.

I won't deny that the bodily discomfort and mental resistance is personally challenging. Yet I have come to love hiking in nature because I am able to simultaneously experience joy; the kind of joy that comes from the experience of being alive, where I feel completely whole and at peace, just as I am.

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

I also love the sense of awe I feel when surrounded by the beauty of the natural wilderness; beauty that leaves me transfixed, alert and present. I feel the same aliveness of my body is present in the surrounding environment.

If we recognise ourselves as nature, we will preserve it.

In these moments, my instincts tell me that the natural environment isn't separate from me; I'm amongst it, part of it and it's part of me. We are one and the same thing. It is this reverence for nature that has led to my desire to protect it like I would protect myself and my loved ones. I've believe that if we recognise ourselves as nature, we will preserve it.

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

During my first week of teaching Environmental Sociology at Swinburne University, the students and I reflected on the question: ‘What is nature?’ A simple yet deceptive question that results in different perspectives. Surprisingly, various environmental groups don't share one perspective of nature, so they work to preserve or protect it in different ways.

Nature is viewed as a resource that exists solely to serve humans.

The major environmental groups that have gained most funding and traction are more conservative. They seem to share a dominant dualistic perspective of the developed western world, that nature and people are separate entities. In this way, nature is viewed as a resource that exists solely to serve humans and must be defeated or dominated.

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

I believe that this approach is detrimental to the natural environment and to us. This view hasn't been able to effectively combat any of the threats we face from global warming and other natural devastations like over-fishing. It's a limited view that's preventing from identifying as ecological citizens.

Clothing is a fabric of nature.

I advocate for a fashion industry with social and environmental responsibility. I believe that clothing is a fabric of nature and ourselves, not just a commodity to be consumed. I try my best to align my values with my clothing choices. One outdoor clothing company that closely aligns with my values is Patagonia. Their mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

Over the years as I've learnt more about their inspiring founding story, what they stand for and what they have achieved through their environmental and social responsibility practices. Their philosophy and values - quality, innovation, responsibility and simplicity - are values that also guide my own actions.

“The love of a wild and beautiful world comes with an obligation to preserve its wilderness and beauty.” - Patagonia

Patagonia recognises that we must work to protect nature to ensure we can continue to enjoy it and survive as a species. They also identify as ecological citizens who have a responsibility to preserve the natural environment and its beings. This is why I choose use their products, especially when I travel, hike and trail run.

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

“It is the style of the climb, not the attainment of the summit which is the measure of personal success.” - Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Founder

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

Nerida Lennon wearing ethical fashion brand Patagonia hiking Volcan San Pedro Lake Atitlan Guatemala photo by Alastair McCann

What I'm wearing

I bought this Patagonia back pack because I like how they've designed the flap to fold down and the closed zips, which means little water can get into it. I've been caught in some torrential downpours while hiking mountains in Cuba and volcanoes Guatemala and my belongings stayed dry. Inside there is a pocket for my two litre water bottle. I also use it as carry on luggage when flying because there are padded pockets for my laptop, iPad and other smaller items.

My Patagonia running and hiking shorts have a small inner pocket for keys, money or cards. They are made out of recycled polyester and I appreciate how quickly they dry. They are no longer in stock but you can find similar shorts here and here.

I'm also wearing a Nike long sleeved top and singlet made from 100 per cent recycled PET bottles. I'm keen to get the t-shirt to protect my shoulders from getting damaged by the sun while still keeping cool.

I’ve been trying to buy this Patagonia hoodie for about a year. Alastair has the men’s version and it’s amazingly versatile to use before and after Yoga or when it’s cold. I also recommend it when hiking, trail running and to wear on air-conditioned plane trips. Because head is responsible for losing so much of our body heat, I love the hood.

My partner, Alastair recent lost two pairs of hybrid swimming and hiking shorts so I’ve been searching online for some new one’s for him, which you can find here.


Photographs by Alastair McCann (edited by Nerida Lennon) of us climbing up all 3,020 metres (9,908 ft) of the majestic volcano of San Pedro (or 'Volcán San Pedro' as the Mayans call it).

Transparency: I was not paid to write this post. The products featured in this post I independently bought myself. This post includes affiliate links to support me to share these stories with you.


Share your thoughts

Do you also enjoy communing with nature? What is your perspective on the question 'what is nature?'

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