Re: Keep our Mountains free
Publié : 16 janvier 2018, 16:45
Cet article est certainement très intéressant mais une traduction française serait la bienvenue.
Keep our Mountains free
Publié : 15 janvier 2018, 11:01
Une analyse de Francis Sanzaro publiée le 13/01/2018 dans le New York Times.
Keep Our Mountains Free and Dangerous.
THE STONE: 01/13/2018
Mont Blanc, which is known among climbers as the White Killer. A recent spate of fatalities has prompted efforts to force climbers to take safety precautions.
Last August, after several accidents and deaths among climbers on Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest and most treacherous mountain, Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of the French town of St. Gervais-les-Bains, issued an order: Anyone attempting to climb the nearby Gouter route up the mountain must now have specified gear including a harness, rope and headlamp. Those who do not take these precautions are to be fined.
On the face of it, the order is common sense. Mont Blanc, known among climbers as the White Killer, is 15,774 feet high, and as the recent spate of casualties make clear, its ascent is a dangerous one — as one French climbing website describes it, “a vertiginous high mountain route prone to natural hazards: rockfalls, crevasses, avalanches and extreme weather.”
And yet, the decree appears to be a first — no such regulation exists on any of the world’s mountains, and it threatens to unravel a centuries-old ideology based on the understanding of mountains as wild, inherently risky places of conquest, not to be confused with busy boulevards and cafe-lined city streets.
The mayor’s order is more than a matter of public safety. It raises existential and philosophical questions, too: Where, and when, can we take life-threatening risk? Should we continue to see mountains as wild and dangerous natural places, or extensions of our urban environment?
Mr. Peillex indeed justified his decree by claiming that Mont Blanc is no longer a wild place, but as a destination for crowds of tourists and guides, an “urban space of commerce.” The mayor would have us believe that the meandering contours of Mont Blanc’s upper snowfields and wildflower-strewn buttes are now conterminous with weed-strewn sidewalks and traffic lights.
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What his decree accomplishes is the mitigation of risk through behavior modification, not the diminution of hazards on the peak. It is but another version of “protecting us from ourselves.” And while the French have a different system of risk assumption and litigation, the situation on Mont Blanc may be a harbinger for mountain climbing in America’s national parks.
In the United States, climbing mountains is quickly becoming this generation’s family trip to the baseball stadium. There has been an exponential increase in traffic on mountains here: In 1852, four climbers attempted Mount Rainier; in 1960 it was 712; and in 2016 it was nearly 11,000. It is only a matter of time before the same conversation crosses the Atlantic and into our policy boardrooms.
Recently, I spoke with Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest, whose boundaries contain some of Colorado’s deadliest mountains, about what could potentially force the United States to adopt similar measures. Mr. Fitzwilliams didn’t miss a beat: “The lawyers,” he said.
Mr. Fitzwilliams is an ardent supporter of keeping the wild, but he is well aware that if the Forest Service becomes increasingly responsible for fatalities on mountains, they will have to act to mitigate such risks — and since more and more individuals are heading into the mountains for self-discovery and the peculiar breed of ecstasy the mountains provide, injuries and deaths are also increasing.
The political response in Colorado has been predictable. Local sheriffs and senators and governors are calling deaths in the mountains “unprecedented,” and demanding more signs, “better” trails and other intrusions.
So far, the argument for preserving the “wilderness experience” has kept these changes at bay. But if the Forest Service (or national parks) assume greater risk for visitor safety, they will be forced to institute a range of solutions to reduce their liability — like apps that guide us along virtual routes or keep us on trail as though we were in car lanes, or other “soft” intrusions.
Of course, if American policymakers and citizens conflate urban and wild space — as the French have already done on Mont Blanc — we will see more and more lawsuits against the Forest Service, or another agency, for failing to protect individuals when they are in a natural setting.
Around the country, parks are getting sued for wild animal attacks on visitors within their boundaries, for falling trees or for not warning visitors for the most obvious of risks, such as rivers flooding during storms. These cases indicate a population out of touch with natural danger. If this trend continues, the mountains will have undergone as radical a transformation as they did in the 18th century, when they morphed from ominous landscapes of gloom to topographies of heroic conquest.
The origins of mountain climbing lay in the middle of the 19th century. Before that, they were seen as landscapes of evil otherness, where the tempestuous gods exercised their wrath. The curious ventured not.
After the 1850s, climbing became for some a way to “overcome the self” or “experience the sublime.” As townspeople and shepherds found their way to the tops of the Alps, the ability to thwart death and overcome human limitation in mountainous landscapes became valued — but that value assumed an environment of risk. A hero needs adversity, and the extreme conditions and danger of the mountains provided that. Later, in the middle of the 20th century, the literature of the golden era of big Himalayan climbing lionized first ascensionists because they, like great generals or explorers, navigated risk successfully.
Mountains are inherently dangerous. But just as free speech makes a place for disgusting speech, wild places need to make a place for irresponsible activity. It is our life, after all. Right? Not really. Our right to life doesn’t always include our right to risk it. If that thought doesn’t feel strange to you, think about it again. It should.
As the British sociologist Anthony Giddens has noted, it is no coincidence that the concept of “risk” appears prominently in the 16th and 17th centuries, during the height of the age of exploration. The Middle Ages didn’t have a concept of risk, and it did not exist in the majority of non-Western languages. According to Mr. Giddens, “risk presumes a society that actively tries to break away from its past.” Societies desirous for new lands and new lives took risk, and today, on a smaller scale, we take risk in the mountains to become better people. Accomplish something. Start anew.
Freedom is a relative term, and can be conceived only in relation to something. Freedom from what? is the question. In mountainous regions, freedom from what isn’t so obvious. We are not free to murder or steal — we are free from the strictures of time, workplace stress, of being told what to do, where to go, how to be; we can travel as we may, how we may. Mountains are thrilling because our lives there are not shepherded by another, our safety not curated. It’s an intoxicating freedom, riveting, at once modern and ancient.
Growing up, I despised the statement “No risk, no reward.” It was cliché and meaningless. But as a lifelong climber I find a strange solace in hanging from a granite wall, without a rope, in pure mountainous solitude. It is in such moments of controlled risk where I discover the fabric of my soul. Do I panic? Do I find the strength? I return to civilization refreshed.
This is basic stuff, and the mountains do this for tens of millions of us annually. If we make the mountains safe, perceive them as urban space and demand to have them as regulated as city blocks, we have not only lost “the mountains” but that part of us only they can foster.
Francis Sanzaro is the author of three books, including “The Boulder: A Philosophy for Bouldering,” and the editor of Rock and Ice and Ascent magazines.
Now in print: “Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments,” and “The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments,” with essays from the series, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, published by Liveright Books.