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Thoughts About Discussing Trail Ethics

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  • Ray Rippel
    Good afternoon, everyone, I ve been watching the Leave-No-Trace discussion on the forum for the past couple of days, and I found it interesting. (That s
    Message 1 of 42 , Feb 23, 2014
      Good afternoon, everyone,

      I've been watching the "Leave-No-Trace" discussion on the forum for the past couple of days, and I found it interesting. (That's hardly unusual; I learn a ton here.)

      Based on some of the communication I observed, and based on some feedback I've gotten over the years at my blog, some thoughts occurred to me. I offer them here for whatever they're worth:

      1. Some things are illegal; some are not. It makes sense to differentiate between the two.

      2. If someone is violating a law (e.g., lighting a fire in an area where they are clearly prohibited), I think it's perfectly appropriate to point out to the person that they are breaking the law, and that there could be serious penalties involved. If someone is doing something  you consider inappropriate, but is not illegal--and if you want that person to stop doing that activity--I think it is fair to say that you need to persuade the person to stop. Persuasion (as opposed to coercion; i.e., "stop or you are going to get fined") requires a much different approach. No one's mind is likely to change if they feel they are being attacked. My first response, when attacked, is to defend--it's not to reconsider my position.

      3. If that analysis is true, ad hominem arguments are bound to fail. "I used to do that, too, but then I considered..." has a much better chance of changing a person's mind than an attack on the person.

      4. It's also worth noting that the aphorisms we use as shortcuts are not literally true; they're just shortcuts that provide general guidance. Take, for instance, "If you pack it in; pack it out." There is an easy way to determine how well you did regarding that rule: was your pack weight roughly the same at the end of the hike as it was at the beginning? If not, you packed something in that you didn't pack out. I don't want to get into the scatology of hiking, but I'm pretty sure we're all leaving something behind. Think food is the only exception? I don't know about you, but my boots are worn, my clothes have minor abrasions, and the tips of my trekking poles (either rubber or metal) look substantially different at the end of the hike than at the beginning. Where do you suppose all of that matter goes?

       "Leave No Trace" is no better. If you think for a second that there is a way to hike without leaving ANY trace, do this thought experiment: imagine 1,000 perfect hikers walked down a trail doing nothing but letting their feet fall onto the surface of the trail. Do you think the surface would look different after the thousandth hiker than before the first. I sure do, even if I couldn't tell the difference after one, or ten. Another example: is it possible to (successfully) fish the lakes or streams along the trail without leaving ANY trace. At the very minimum, if asked, I think your dinner would say, "No." As anyone knows who watches CSI, you ALWAYS leave a trace.

      Now, I am NOT saying that since they are not literally true that anything goes. I'm only saying that it takes some judgment. And if you want to change the way a person judges a certain situation, you need to persuade them to reconsider, not attack their character.

      One of things I like best about this Yahoo group is the courtesy of all involved. That's a tribute to the moderators and to the kind of people who love the Sierra Nevada. We have plenty of arguments here, but the best ones are the ones that steer clear of personal attacks.

      Good hiking, Ray

      p.s. You'll note that I used no examples of personal attacks. I avoided examples because, with a simple search, any example I described could easily be attributed to a particular person. I'm REALLY not trying to call anyone out--I'm just offering some thoughts regarding the best way to win another hiker over to your position.
    • rnperky@sbcglobal.net
      Speaking of relieving oneself on the trail, I ve seen it on several occasions where a whole pack train will be stopped in the middle of a crossing while the
      Message 42 of 42 , Feb 26, 2014
        Speaking of relieving oneself on the trail, I've seen it on several occasions where a whole pack train will be stopped in the middle of a crossing while the literal fire hoses of mule piss are heading right into your drinking water! Something to ponder in your water sources where pack animals are present. 
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