On more than one trip to Argentina in the past, I’ve heard my Argentine friends make cynical jokes about the national bird of Argentina: a plastic bag stuck in a tree, flapping in the wind. It’s an unfortunately widespread sight. Trash—and trash that gets away—is a problem all over the world, in urban and wild places. But considering Argentina’s vast expanses of natural open spaces, lakes and mountains with a population increasingly discovering the wonders in their own backyard, pollution is abundant. While traveling in Bariloche, I met one person who has dedicated over a decade of their life to solving the problem.
Admittedly, he wasn’t always an expert on conservation practices.
When Diego Allolio first began climbing mountains in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, no-one had taught him how to, erm, poop outside. “This was about 30 years ago, in the late 1990s and there just weren’t that many people out in the mountains then,” he says. “We were out camping, and shitting in the woods, leaving the toilet paper, not digging holes, just putting a rock on it—and we thought we were good!”
The more time he spent outdoors, the more Allolio wanted a career as a mountain guide, and to share the natural treasures of Argentina with others. He began to look into guiding courses and accreditation abroad. “I came across the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and so I went to Wyoming to take a course. There, I learned about the Leave No Trace ethic and became a NOLS instructor. And at that time in Argentina, it was especially clear to me we really needed messaging and techniques to protect the environment as we use it for recreation.”