Online Influencers Shamed for Their Treatment of California Poppy Fields

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An Instagram account called Public Lands Hate You is calling out shoddy environmental stewardship.

Rainy weather in California this spring has resulted in magnificent poppy blooms throughout the mountains. Hillsides are carpeted with delicate orange flowers and the effect is breathtaking. Not surprisingly, this has drawn thousands of visitors wanting to capture the sight on camera, then post it on social media.

The problem, though, is that some people are being careless in their quest for the perfect Instagram shot. They're stepping off the trails, lying down in the poppy fields, and ripping out the flowers, roots and all, to pose for pictures. Not only does this harm the poppies, but it sets a terrible example for their many followers who may go out and try the same.

In response to this behavior, an Instagram account called Public Lands Hate You has taken on the responsibility of calling out these online influencers (and whatever sponsors might be involved) for shoddy environmental stewardship. The anonymous author, a 31-year-old man living in the U.S. Pacific Northwest who has visited every national park in the lower 48 states, reposts particularly reprehensible shots, adding "caustic commentary to images of destruction or carelessness" and hashtags like #yourmomlied and #yourenotspecial.

Cited in the Guardian: "You have got these influencers who have access to 100,000 people. They are posting things that I don’t think they even think about what the impact of that picture could be. And there’s an exponential affect. People keep posting and posting and posting."

He also criticizes the use of Photoshop to create images that would harm nature or pose danger to inexperienced people, mainly because the viewers don't understand that Photoshop has been used and may try to recreate it.

Instagram influencers wield a surprising amount of power when it comes to sending people to new places. Overnight, a remote vantage point can become a busy outlook clogged with traffic and lineups. As a result, there's some pressure on influencers not to use the geotag feature on posts, which allows people to pinpoint a precise location. But until the sponsor money dries up, the guy behind Public Lands Hate You doesn't think influencers are keen to listen. That's why his posts, with tags to sponsors, media outlets, the National Park Service, and the influencers themselves, may be the most effective way to stop the natural destruction right now. Public shaming, unfortunately, always seems to work.

This a valuable lesson for all, whether you're an influencer or not. There are a lot of us on this planet, and we cannot treat nature as if we are the sole humans on Earth. Always follow the 7 basic principles of Leave No Trace:

1.Travel on durable surfaces (in popular places avoid areas where impacts are just beginning)
2. Leave what you find
3. Be considerate of other visitors
4. Dispose of waste properly
5. Respect wildlife
6. Minimize campfire impacts
7. Plan ahead and prepare