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Are We the Last Generation to Experience the Outdoors as We Know it?

Welcome to OUTER LIMITS, a Motherboard series that goes inside the outdoors.

Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson

Image: Lia Kantrowitz

Chances are you didn't see me when I started writing this. But if you did, you'd know I was sitting on a hill somewhere upstate, enjoying nature—and tapping out this introduction in a sticky note on my phone.

So much of our time is spent indoors staring at screens. And increasingly, a lot of our time outdoors is spent doing the same. But it's crucial to remember that advances in technology and science are influencing how we interact with nature like never before. A whole forest's worth of apps and digital platforms promise to open up the outdoors and revolutionize how we analyze and enjoy the world around us. At the same time, the privatization of public lands threatens access—for some of us more than others—to our shared natural splendor. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change threaten not only the health of our lands, water, and air, but the future of humankind itself.

The outdoors, in other words, feel so close yet far away. The question is, are we the last generation to go outside as we know it?

Welcome to OUTER LIMITS, a Motherboard series that goes inside the outdoors. Think of it as an encounter at the rocky trailhead to a future that looks increasingly like something out of Black Mirror. Who is using and privatizing our public land? Who still has access to the outdoors and who's been boxed out? And how is tech enhancing and obstructing how we go outside?

Over the course of the week, we'll be featuring stories that explore the shifting nature of occupying the outdoors, as we embed with the people and tech at the forefront of political environmentalism, connectivity anxiety, and augmented realities. Lauren Steele brings us the definitive story on Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge in Colorado, and the painful past and uncertain future of nuclear cleanup in America. Asia Murphy has your animal opsec covered, with a look at how GPS data embedded in your nature photos is being used by animal poachers and collectors who scan social media to scout new populations to ransack. Michael Byrne and Lisa Cumming will offer alternate takes on getting lost in the age of Google Maps, be it in the Pacific Northwest or on a 180 mile bike trip through Europe.

With stops in the Northwest Passage, Hong Kong's filled-to-the-brim cemeteries, Antarctica's illegal AR gaming scene, the Florida Everglades, and other locales along the way.

So lace those boots up tight, be sure your electronics are fully charged, and let us guide you (before it's too late).

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