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.