Outdoor Retailer - August 2021 - 40

Field Notes: Chris Kalman
Nowhere Else to
Point the Finger
We need to consider the long-term impacts of loving
the outdoors to death. By Chris Kalman
THERE'S A POLITICAL CARTOON I SAW REcently
that I can't seem to get out of my head.
In the foreground, a man in a tattered business
suit is speaking to three children around a fire.
In the background looms a city in ruin.
" Yes, the planet got destroyed, " reads the
caption. " But for a beautiful moment in time,
we created a lot of value for shareholders. "
If you're like me, this political cartoon
brings to mind the likes of Exxon-Mobil, the
Koch Brothers, and the Keystone XL Pipeline.
But suppose the caption read: " Yes, the
outdoors got destroyed. But for a beautiful
moment in time, we created a lot of value for
the outdoor industry . " Where do we point the
finger then?
IT'S EASY TO BLAME OTHERS FOR ALL THE
world's problems. But when it comes to the
outdoor industry, we have no one to blame for
our predicaments but ourselves.
Consider climbing, for example. Between
chipping routes, chopping routes, disobeying
closures, using power drills in wilderness,
and bolting over a petroglyph panel (for
God's sake), it's no wonder that land managers
around the country are implementing bolting
moratoriums and new restrictive climbingmanagement
plans.
Meanwhile, anyone who's in the climbing
industry has both contributed to and profited
from the sport's exponential growth over the
last decade or so. As a climbing journalist, I am
no exception. I've written about places I love,
and I've gotten plenty of hate mail (arguably
deserved?) for " blowing those places up. " Even
if my intentions were good, even if it's not fair
to pin the blame entirely on me, I can't hide
from the fact that I contributed to the popularization
of climbing and climbing areas.
40 OUTDOOR RETAILER / August 2021
And we all know how that manifests: marmot-ravaged
crashpad tatters in the alpine;
devegetation and soil erosion around the bases
of crags; unsustainable and braided social
trails. Trash, toilet paper, human excrement,
and other forms of litter abound from the desert
to the rainforest. Unless you've been living
under a rock for the past few years (or maybe
because you have been), you've seen all of this
and more.
You may have also noticed that just a few
months ago, Yosemite National Park announced
it would be implementing a wilderness
permit system for overnight climbs on El
Capitan. If you weren't happy about that news,
you're not alone. But I don't think anyone can
honestly claim it's a bad idea, or that we didn't
see it coming. We all cheered enthusiastically
for Valley Uprising, The Dawn Wall, Free Solo,
and countless other Yosemite-based climbing
films. We're psyched that climbing is in
the Olympics. We love having three different
climbing gyms from which to choose within
15 minutes of home. Are we really going to act
surprised (or worse, indignant) that climbing
in Yosemite now needs to be regulated?
OF COURSE, THIS ISN'T JUST ABOUT CLIMBING.
This applies to every segment of the outdoor
industry. Playing outside, it turns out, is awesome.
Cat's out of the bag. And it should be.
Gatekeeping and other exclusionary practices
need to end now. Yesterday. One hundred
years ago. The outdoors are for everybody, and
if that means your secret spot is no longer a secret,
so be it. Find a new secret spot that's a bit
harder to get to. Trust me, they're out there.
But the other side of that coin is a realistic
appraisal of how much impact the places we
love can handle, and a moderation of our behavior
to reflect that appraisal. It's no longer
acceptable to be a part of the outdoor industry
and remain agnostic (or worse, apathetic)
about the impact we, as good conservationminded
outdoors enthusiasts, have on the
ecosystems where we recreate. You can't just
blame it on [insert disliked group here]. We're
all complicit.
With Outdoor Retailer Summer right
around the corner, now is a good time to take
a long, hard, critical look at ourselves. Just because
other industries are worse doesn't mean
ours can't be better. There's nowhere else to
point the finger. O.R.
READ MORE
Chris Kalman is the author of Damned If You
Don't, a novel that tells the story of a deeply
conflicted photographer who tries to save
Lahuenco, a remote valley in Patagonian
Chile. Order it at chriskalman.com.
Courtesy Chris Kalman
http://www.chriskalman.com

Outdoor Retailer - August 2021

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