Friday, November 22, 2013

Protecting the resource

So I was able to take an hour out of my day yesterday to view the Wings of Steel movie.

Wings of Steel is an esoteric, difficult climb on the left side of El Capitan in Yosemite.  After the first ascent in 1982, twenty-nine years elapsed before the route saw a repeat.  This film follows the second ascent team as they struggle up the wall over thirteen days.

But there is more to the story than climbing.  The "assault" on El Cap was not just human vs. rock.  It was human vs. human.

You see, the 1982 first ascent team were "outsiders" to the Yosemite climbing scene.   During the many days of their ascent, local climbers became convinced that the route was being put up in bad style; that the precious rock of Yosemite was being damaged and disrespected by climbers who had not paid their dues in this almost-sacred place.

What followed was a scapegoating of the FA party as unclean.  Apparently, "everyone" knew that the route was a travesty, and the climbers underwent various kinds of public shaming and humliiation.  For years.  "We had to protect the resource", says one of those involved to the movie camera.

If you want to know "who was right", you'll have to see the movie (or read Ammon's article in Rock and Ice or, if you have a few days to spare, read the 3473 posts on the original Supertopo thread...) and then form your own opinion. That's not where I'm going here.

You see, what this got me thinking about is how much we humans tend to form our community by setting boundaries and defining who is outside them.  Even those (perhaps especially those) who identify with a cause greater than themselves.

Is the environmental cause, which wants to protect the precious resources of this sacred place, going to  become defined by who it scapegoats?

Or by who it loves?

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