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Author Topic: An open letter to the community re: impact  (Read 341 times)

Danhedonia

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An open letter to the community re: impact
« on: January 14, 2003, 12:40:16 PM »

Hello.  This is an open letter to the neclimbs community.  I have posted it in slightly altered form in 2 other places.
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I have been climbing for about five years now; I became interested through hiking and trekking.  I have had the privilege of seeing some remarkable and beautiful mountains.  My motivation for climbing is to bring me closer to these holy places.  Finding myself in an alpine setting gives me a powerful sense of peace as well as a deep and abiding joy.  

I know that people climb for many, many different reasons, and that what is true for me may not be true for others.  Personal challenge, teamwork, competitiveness, and the pleasure of pure physical effort are some of the reasons I know for climbing.  But we all have one thing in common: the places where we climb, whether the gym, a local toprope crag, or a route deep in the heart of some distant range of jagged peaks.

I am a very ardent supporter of the Leave No Trace ethos.  From the preservation of aesthetic beauty for others' enjoyment to the statement it makes about how we wish to approach our relationship with nature, I think that Leave No Trace provides a clear ideal that is both aesthetically appealing and also extremely practical.

As I become more involved with climbing, I am also increasingly surprised by what I see as a disregard of LNT principles, and sensibility.  Whether it be littering at crags (or the gym parking lot, lately strewn with fresh orange peels every time I go) or worse, I think that it is time for our community to think hard about how it wants to be perceived, and how it wants to define itself.

Is it acceptable to leave natural places visually altered?  I'm not talking about bolting in the wilderness; I'm talking about chalk marks all over cliffs or rocks in places where hikers (or - gasp! - tourists)  wish to go to enjoy whatever small taste of nature they feel might be on offer.  Examples:  Chopping down small trees and removing earth to add 3 feet to the base of an ice climb.  Garbage and human waste left strewn around the periphery of base camps in far flung locations.  Rap slings stacked around the base of a tree in the middle of a wilderness setting.  Cutting new trails to avoid walking a few extra yards to the base of a climb.  

These are small actions that place a priority on climbing over preservation of resources.  Although this may seem justifiable in individual cases, the climbing community is large enough now to have a real detrimental impact on locations - and to play an important role in their management.  This means not only causing or preventing ecological harm according to some subjective standard, but also the altering of others' experience of the location, whether that is a local suburban park or the Karakoram.

Look at the closing of certain areas of Hueco Tanks.  At that location, climbers' chalk marks clashed with the landscape and preservation aims (all rhetoric about other issues aside, that is .  This cost not only the climbing community a fine climbing location, but also created a lesser experience for those who are not climbers and who wanted to enjoy the area in a more visually clean way.  Red River Gorge is also going through a time where climbing access is being questioned, due to impact.

Principles, by definition, are not selectively applied.  Littering in the climbing gym parking lot is not the same egregious act as scattering trash on the summit of Mt. Sneffels in the San Juans, but it stems from the same attitude:  "I do as I please, putting myself first, because I know what is best."  I don't suggest that others who observe such behavior are more likely to litter - but they are more likely to learn that doing as they see fit, at the expense of others' enjoyment, is their birthright as someone who can pull a 5.12.  

Being a bold and/or accomplished climber does not increase one's entitlement to use natural resources as one sees fit.  To claim a place as stakeholders in the management of public lands, a "me first" attitude, individually and as a group, is just going to make things harder.  It's also very lacking in generosity to other user groups who may have different aims and goals.  Most climbing takes place on public lands - and that means that each member of the public has a right to have their interest there represented.

Are climbers exempt from Leave No Trace ethics?  I would suggest that the opposite is true: climbers should lead by example, as we have such an involved and immediate relationship with the places at which we climb.  Perhaps some do not care for the aesthetic beauty of the places where we climb, but that shouldn't be taken as license to impinge on others' enjoyment.  No one learns without examples; long-time climbers ought to take a more active role in showing leadership to young lions and lionesses of the sport.

I know of no climber who feels hostile towards natural beauty; yet, I do know several who seem to give little thought to sharing resources with non-climbers.  We can, and should, do better.

Thanks for reading,
Dan Sutton
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dogboy

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2003, 01:29:07 PM »

Two initial thoughts:

What is more damaging?  Rap slings, or trees that have been killed by people repeatedly pulling ropes that have simply been slung around the trunk?

Chalk?  From the summit of any of the Presidentials I can see trails criss-crossing the valley, but I have to be within a hundred feet or so of the cliff to see chalk (different than in the Southwest, where the red rock shows up white chalk from a long ways away).  We all leave traces...chalk seems to be the least of our problems.

Believe me, I agree that we have to be conscious of our impact...the proliferation of shortcut and social trails seems to be a particular problem.  But we have to be realistic as well.  If we want to preserve true wilderness areas (and maybe we should), then all human activity should be banned from them......
« Last Edit: January 14, 2003, 01:32:33 PM by jeffc »
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Rural Ecology

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2003, 02:49:41 PM »

I hear ya.

If you were in outer space and had a time lapse camera and you made a film of the Earth since 1900 you would see that in the last 100 years humans have had a huge impact. Massive! You would see an impact unlike any other in the Earth's History. Massive deforestation, massive urban development, etc.

With the demand for excessive growth in our economy ("to make life better") humans have become ruthless consumers of our Earths resources. And as more people live in cities and their perception become purely urban, and purely human created, purely corporate sponsored as on TV, and purely anthropocentrically scientific, so do people forget that everytime they use money to buy something, something, or ganguspin camlot piece of metal nylon that they already have, that some plant, some ore, some piece of dirt, some fish, has been displaced or killed or buried in some form of waste from that growth!!!!

Forests, tress, oceans, reefs, lakes can't grow or revitalize as fast or at the rate that money grows in the Bank or at the rate that humans  demand (lust) for money grows. That is why the world kind of seems a little messed right now (from certain peoples perspective mind you). Natural resources are becoming a little bit more valuable and scarce, but people still want more.

However, its only going to get better because the worlds population is going to double in the next 40 years. That's twice as many ice climbers, boulderers, people, "growth", etc.

I would suggest reading "From Naked Ape to Superspecies" by David Suzuki for a perspective. God bless.
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Danhedonia

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2003, 09:02:17 PM »

Funny, I thought standing up for what you believe in, despite adolescent sniping and empty machismo, was "blood and guts."  I'll have to rethink that.

I wrote that letter not for the majority of climbers who are thoughtful and respectful of the places where they climb, but to a growing subset of people I find who have an attitude that I'd loosely label, "the world is my climbing gym."

You know what?  Those people could stand a little reality check, and it's rank and file climbers who ought to try to show a little leadership.  Don't be scared to do the right thing.

Dogboy, disagree that chalk isn't that bad -- it's hideous, not at all different from graffiti, to my POV.  Think about it -- to a graffiti artist, a tag is a statement, maybe a work of art.  To everyone else an eyesore.  Chalk is only meaningful to climbers -- to those who don't know why it's there, it's ONLY an ugliness.

I also suggest (yup, here comes my radical notion) that in fact, in SOME wilderness areas (no I'm not saying Cathedral Ledge) that no trace at all should be left -- if it can't be climbed LNT, then yeah, don't climb it.

Climbers won't really be afforded full legitimacy as a stakeholder group in stewardship issues until they can demonstrate that they don't always put the interest of "more climbing" first, all the time.

Also please note that I tried to use examples of premeditated impact, whether small scale or large.  That's different from the inevitable impact of Malthusian Theory realized.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2003, 09:07:18 PM by Danhedonia »
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dogboy

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2003, 06:29:25 AM »

Thanks for the reality check, Mark!  Chalk as bad as grafitti?  Come on!  First off, chalk isn't toxic...it has no propellent, no solvents, no heavy metals, etc.  Second, it washes off in the rain...the last time I checked, spray paint didn't.  Third, I'd say that graffiti, at least on manmade structures, is art....

Look, I just thing the LNT ethic is something to shoot for, but an unrealistic absolute.  You think chalk is so bad...do you use lights in your house?  Light pollution is far more damaging than chalk...do you wear hiking boots with deep lugs on them?  They chew up trails faster than you might think.  We all leave a trace wherever we go...if you climb around here, you climb routes that were scrubbed clean with a wire brush...or do you climb mossy, lichen covered routes without disloding any of the flora and fauna?  You could, of course, climb in the gym and avoid having any impact on the crags...but think of all the plastic holds manufactured in some chemical-spewing factory in China, not to mention all of the plywood impregnated with industrial glues and preservatives...

I'm really not trying to advocate that we go out and destroy, dig up, knock down, and otherwise disrupt whatever we want...I'm just trying to point out that some level of impact is inevitable, and that some impact is, perhaps, acceptable...
« Last Edit: January 15, 2003, 06:49:38 AM by jeffc »
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Danhedonia

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2003, 06:23:52 PM »

Mark, I think your post's arrogance says a lot more about yourself than my ideas.  Attempting to draw clubby circles (you're in, I'm out) just has nothing to do with the issue at hand.  Also, if you have a hard time with some of the bigger words, try here:

www.dictionary.com

Should you care to discuss this further, please feel free to arrange a telephone call with me, or a personal meeting.  Your impressive record as a lifelong mountaineer has zero impact on the issue at hand.  Of course, I could speculate as to what ego needs prompted to you to need to make that little display (your post smells of this), but then, I think I'd be acting like a presumptive jerkoff, having never met you and all.  See what I'm saying?

Actually, what I'd like to do is encourage everyone to preserve natural resources so that others can, in fact, enjoy them as I do.  Or, if you can wrap your "dumb as a post" mind around the humility -- the way that they might wish to do so, so long as it doesn't get in someone else's way.

I've noticed that the WMNF doesn't have the same impact issues that a lot of Boston's local crags do -- I'm sorry if that doesn't qualify for your important radar screen.  It does mine.  We've got impact problems, and I suspect we're not alone.  Who was it posting about the "hoard" (sic) of kids at Rumney, leaving ciggie butts and spitting and etc.?  Maybe you're too cool for giving a crap, but for those of us who aren't hunting down our photos in the latest Rock & Ice, perhaps we'd like to not belay from ashtrays.  I don't think that's asking too much.

When you "pass those hikers," doesn't your butt hurt?  Some hikers can be sorta large ...  Oh, I get it!  It was a covert boast!  I can be so *dumb* sometimes ...
« Last Edit: January 15, 2003, 06:36:32 PM by Danhedonia »
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YAWN!

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2003, 08:50:41 PM »

You are not as stupid as you are boring dad.  ;)
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dogboy

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2003, 06:08:09 AM »

Actually Dan, it's your posts that seem the most self-satisfied and self-congratulatory..."I know how to enjoy the wilderness properly, and the rest of you don't" sort of thing.  I always suspect that folks who have the time to preach about impact to others don't spend enough time thinking about their own actions and practices.  A holy-than-thou attitude rarely convinces other people of the rightness of your position....

And, I really am curious about your feelings on cleaning routes.  Scrubing big strips of moss and lichens off the rock seems much higher impact than leaving a few slings or pieces of gear behind...but I doubt that you only climb routes that are "naturally" clean....
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Bryan

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2003, 08:07:06 AM »

While LNT ethics are extremly important for everybody to strive for, that's all we can do, strive for them.  Every person living in our society is guilty of making some sort of negative impact on the enviroment, no matter how cautious one is.  You can't even enjoy a simple peice of fruit anymore without feeling guilty.  Water tables full of pesticides have shown us that even "naturall" foods harm the enviroment.    
 Rap slings are against leave no trace? While they may be visable, they are protecting the enviroment that we climb in.  Trees can die very quickly from ropes being pulled around them over and over again.  If the trees in an area are all killed it could lead to massive enviromental issues that would make ugly slings look like a godsend.  Besides that , slings are removable.  They leave no trace behind if they are removed from these trees.
  Bryan
 
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Danhedonia

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2003, 08:15:51 AM »

Dogboy -

Please note the difference between saying "the rest of you" and "an increasing #."  In my letter, I pointed out what has been pointed out elsewhere on this very forum -- a growing number of climber-users who don't give one hoot about their impact.  That wasn't ME that posted about the group dumping cigarette butts and spitting and etc. at Rumney.  What I was asking for was LEADERSHIP from "the rest of you."  Whatever you think, in your judgement, is the best way to teach people to think about minimizing impact, why not do it?  You already do?  Great!

Can I ask where you think I congratulate myself?  I can send you an IM with a long laundry list of my personal flaws and shortcomings.  I sure do think I'm "right" about this, but hell, that's about the ideas in play, not me as a person.

As for route cleaning - you can check with a couple of people you might know personally -- as a matter of fact, I do find the removal/cleaning of living things off of routes to be ... something that I personally dislike, and avoid unless I feel that there is a safety issue.  I never climb at Rumney -- I'm too fat/not good enough, and it just doesn't "send" me (ha ha).  But I know others disagree, and their opinions and wishes are just as valid as mine, or those of hikers, or those of car campers or my retired Dad who has about an hour of activity in him before he gets tired.  Those places belong to all of us, regardless of whether some spend 250 days/yr. there and others may visit only once.  Collectively, it's public property.

Mark -

Seems like you woke up on a better side of the bed today!  me too!  What I'd like to say is, you know, *skill as a climber* has just no relationship to the worthiness of opinion on impact issues.  And for God's sake, I'm a crap climber!  Let's not let a serious discussion about impact obscure what a bad climber I am!  Fire away.  BTW, I like my "faraway gleam," got no shame there ...

OK, so Malthusian Theory states that population grows exponentially, the food supply geometrically.  Thomas Malthus, should you wish to do a Google search (actually very interesting).  

My point is: the # of climbers and users generally is just going to grow, not shrink, and grow by increasing #s.  Maybe it isn't noticeable in N. Conway as much as around Boston yet.  At our local crags down here (and hey, man, this is where I have to live to make a living) we've had some freelance crag landscaping (and willy-nilly fixed anchor building) that I think is going a bit too far.  There's also just a growing tendency to flat-out litter.  You may or may not agree with how objectionable those things are.  

I took the "NE" part of "NEClimbs" to heart, figuring that even the lowly crags around the city are included here, and that those places are worthy of being treated nice.  I will never stop believing that, in no small part because of where they are.  It's all we have.  And while I know I'm just a yuppie schmuck playing pretend, I like going to MDC parks and just for a moment feeling the absence of artifice.  That IS a big reason why we have parks, no?
« Last Edit: January 16, 2003, 08:20:28 AM by Danhedonia »
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Trust In God

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2003, 08:17:38 AM »

Dan,
 Dude. The world is just going to blow up anyway. ;) The human species time is coming closer to the end anyhow. ::) Dude, Go climbing and have fun before we get nuked, gased, or our minds get eatin by some bacteria released into the air by the "Evil Doers". I agree with what you are saying, but its hard to talk about climbers impacts when our government uses billions of my tax dollars to build roads to cut down forests, chemical and gas refineriers, dams, toxic waste dumps, and nuklear bombs to kill arab people. :o

Buy Coca Cola, Micky D's, and shop at climberstore and have a nice day!  :-*

ps. I think the world is my climbing gym and I think that is kind of kool. 8)
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dogboy

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2003, 09:08:06 AM »

To play the other side...

Using the "Everything is going to hell anyway, so why should I care" or the "There are much worse things than what I do, so why should I care"  excuses is bullshit too.  Do what you can to minimize your impact...if everyone did that the world over, than we'd be in a much better place.  If no one ate at fast food restaurants, there wouldn't be massive deforestation in South America to raise ultra-cheap cattle.

The key is to find a balance in your life, be comfortable with the choices you make, and try to examine your ethics honestly....
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Dick Cheney

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2003, 09:25:18 AM »

cigarette butts, orange peels, rap slings.....all child's play

I was just reading in a National Geo about the now closed nuclear development site (or whatever it was) in the Columbia River Gorge(WA), the government dumped something like millions of gallons of radioactive waste/water into the ground....this concerns me.

Head out and climb/hike/ski, be respectful of the environment, but put your energy for environmental and social change into the bigger picture issues.

My .02
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jay conway

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2003, 12:51:00 PM »

dogboy says
"From the summit of any of the Presidentials I can see trails criss-crossing the valley"

I have to add that I also see the worst example of land/environment abuse ever, Mount Washington.

we should go after people who treat land like mount washington rather than argue over chalk or slings in the woods

jay
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Danhedonia

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Re: An open letter to the community impact
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2003, 03:00:49 PM »

I learned my lesson about rap slings -- see, that's the kind of leadership I'm talking about.  Teach ME ... teach others ...

it's easy to laugh at what I admit is a pretty mercurial stance, but giving up is not an option, and once the laughing's over the situation in question remains.  sure there's the inevitability of what will happen over time, but also there's people who leave cigarette butts at the crags, cut down trees easier access to a route ... that's not inevitable, it's damn selfish, and I know I'm not winning elections saying it but by God, I believe it to be true and there it is.  I have great faith in others' ability to come around to more considerate behavior if it's demonstrated to them (wonder where I went wrong, eh? ME TOO!!!) and that is my grand hope for this muckraking -- that maybe someone gets the balls to say to someone "hey, you know, people try to pack out their garbage here" or "I really hope you take the ciggie butts with you" or "I try not to cut through here because it braids the trail" when you're out with someone new or whatever.

Am I an extremist?  In my private thoughts and personal behavior, yes, much more than I let on here ... but I know I'm out there on a limb.  I won't say I'm a Buddhist or a vegetarian because I'd be a liar, but I do try to at least reflect on all living things around me.  I'll take the teasing but it is who I am.  I'm not going to try to fool anyone into thinking I'm more than a hack climber.  I'm a nuisance but I'm not a liar.

Anyhow, I think it's good every now and then to think 10 or 30 years down the road, and how the places we love might look then.

I have my issues with the AMC and the huts and the development of Mt. Washington -- the AMC are not a group I support or, frankly, like.  I agree that bigger issues deserve attention -- but I also think that the way you get enough people thinking about that stuff is to walk it and talk it consistently.  One small moment can really teach a lot.  My answer is not the easy one: we have to do it all, big issues and little, as our energy permits.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2003, 03:04:00 PM by Danhedonia »
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