Friday, February 19, 2010

Green 5.14? Not so sure

Last week I received the new issue of Climbing described as the "Green Issue." I believe strongly in climbers, and of course the industries that supply them, making sure that the environment is the first priority. However I was surprised to see a large amount of space devoted to the concept of "green" 5.14 touted in an article by Peter Mortimer. The thesis is that the absence of bolts on a hard route somehow makes it more environmentally friendly.

To me this idea, while initially attractive, is not tenable. Besides the simple fact that there are something like a few dozen climbers in the world for whom such a route is feasible, there is a deeper point of missed focus. First there is the problem of presenting climbing ethics masked as environmentalism. Sometimes they coincide, sometimes they don't. What is the impact, for instance, of multiple top-roping sessions, as opposed to a few ground-up working sessions. What about the need to clean out cracks? I am not sure what "green" 5.14 really means in this context? Maybe there should be a requirement that until you redpoint 5.14 in the gym, you can't climb outside. That would certainly cut down on environmental impact.

Second, while "green" 5.14 seems appealing from a media standpoint, it is really green 5.10 that is the issue from both trad and sport standpoints. The impact of the sport on the environment from numbers of participants, regardless of discipline is an issue. Whether Shelf Road or Eldorado Canyon, the ultimate factor is visitor numbers and behavior and those numbers don't reflect high-end sport climbers or boulderers. These issues involve some real soul-searching questions that I am not sure that the climbing industry and media are really ready to ask.

On a related note, Climbing 283 was the last under Matt Samet's editorship. I am working with Matt on an interview series about what it's like to be an editor in the climbing media these days and his thoughts for the future. This promises to be very interesting based on what we have discussed so far. In my view, Matt represented an individual, authentic voice and his departure as editor is a real loss for the sport.

14 comments:

Dave McAllister said...

Samet leaving Climbing? Oh man, that does not portend well for the rag. He's definitely one of the strongest voices in the climbing lit world... Where is he going? Do you know his coming plans, Peter?

Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more with you. Take the climber on the cover of the magazine, for example. Likely he flew on an airplane (very green huh!) and then drove to mill creek to climb a rock? What's the carbon footprint for just getting to that crag, from Canada? How about all of the nasty processes required to create the gear he is using? 10 or so bolts really make a difference doesn't it. We can keep pretending we are green though, if it helps folks sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

hell, whats the carbon footprint of printing that article - X times.

it would be interesting to measure the carbon footprint of climbing indoors vs outdoors regardless of style.

it reminds me of the articles published last year focusing in on U2's impact on the earth by going on tour.

Blackford said...

Agreed on both points.
The "green" issue was pure nonsense, and Samet was one of the few good things left in the mag.
He'll be impossible to replace.

fc said...

Yes, it was a bummer to hear that Matt left. He was really dedicated to that magazine -- it's an easy target of the too cool climbing veterans.

Another way to look at that the 5.14 green thing -- think about how many hours, how many trips to the crags it takes to climb that hard. Good point peter -- don't confuse climbing ethics with environmentalism. Two very different things.

Anonymous said...

Not really sure how or why his leaving is a loss, he obviously drove the mag into the ground. Restoring journalistic credibility will be job one for whoever takes his place, if it doesn't actually go under...

Climbing Islove said...

I agree, and I don't like green climbing for one minute. More thoughts here: www.climbingislove.blogspot.com.
Keep up the interesting blogging!

Megan said...

I think it is interesting that Climbing chose to print 10,000 more copies of the "Green Issue".

Chris Chilas said...

I totally agree with you. There was not any actual discussion of environmentalism in the issue, just a list of things to make you feel better.

Lee said...

Absolutely. How f*(^%n stupid. What's next, how bouldering is better than sport climbing from a GFC perspective? Stop overthinking, Climbing.

chuffer said...

The Green Issue coincided with my last issue of a 'Climbing' subscription that dates back to 1992. The days of climbing rags inspiring dirtbags and weekend warriors the world over is unfortunately OVER. Blogs, climbing media sites, online guides and possibly online mags are the future and are certainly more green. As for the "greenness" of not bolting a 5.14 ... pfffft ... that article missed the mark by a mile.

I know that climbing and traveling to climbing areas does impact the world, but I'm not sure why the climbers should feel so guilty about our sport. Consider for a moment the lack of any semblance of GREEN in ALL motor racing activities. The impacts of a single race (nascar, open wheel, busch series, truck series, Redbull plane racing, boat racing, motorcycle, drag racing, not to mention the dozens of other smaller races, etc.), much less the practice, manufacturing, R & D, travel are staggering. Consider further that a dirty coal-fired plant opens every day in Asia. Consider that Iran is trying to build nuclear warheads and the United Nations is doing nothing about it except talk about sanctions. The world has big problems and it has nothing to do with clambering around on rocks.

That doesn't mean climbers can't consider our impacts and do better, but at least try to keep this in perspective 'Climbing.'

gian said...

green is the color of money, or not?

great post, i see it going in the right direction of fighting the current trend in climbing media: a lot of marketing, some fairytale telling, and a great deal of hypocrisy, just to cover the lack of solid contents.

Narc said...

I finally got around to reading some of this issue and I'd have to agree with you Peter. How leading a route on natural gear after toproping it or climbing it with the bolts that were already there is beyond me. Perhaps if any of the green routes had been done ground up the argument would have held more weight.

Narc said...

Oops...

"How leading a route on natural gear after toproping it or climbing it with the bolts that were already there is beyond me."

should read

"How leading a route on natural gear after toproping it or climbing it with the bolts that were already there is 'green' is beyond me. "