Thursday, January 12, 2017

Snowdon, Chinese lanterns and environmental Daydream Believers.

Local newspapers and social networkers were running a story this week which picked up on comments and photographs from a Snowdon walker-Andrew Ennever- who was concerned with the problem of litter around the summit of the mountain. Particularly around the summit cafe. Photographs showed a doorway entrance strewn with discarded wrappers, plastic bottles and bags etc. Q much hand wringing on social media and tweets from August bodies like the BMC and the Snowdonia Society. The newspapers were particularly outraged ‘Litter louts ruining Snowdon Summit’ ran the Daily Post while Wales Online which is from the same media stable as the Post declared ‘Tourists are accused of leaving one of Wales' most beautiful sites in a shocking state’.

Ignoring the fact the doorway looks like the back door of B&M Bargains in Bootle in the photograph, this is the summit of Yr Wyddfa we’re talking about. A summit which hosts a railway line and a summit cafe which has been described as resembling a Lidl supermarket in the past but which I feel more truly resembles a morgue! A morgue where the mountain spirit goes to die! In summer especially, the crowds gathered around the cafe and summit would not disgrace a League One football match. ‘’One of Wales most beautiful sites’..That’ll be right!

In short, as is so often the case when it comes to environmental issues,many people who should know better become fixated on minor details without seeing the bigger picture. Its what I call ‘The Chinese Lantern Syndrome’ . Every so often the news outlets and social media run stories about the environmental and animal welfare issues surrounding Chinese lanterns. I’ve even seen petitions crop up on sites like Facebook calling for Chinese lanterns to be banned. Farmers claim that cattle can eat them and some conservationists claim that birds and seals can become tangled up in the wire. I’ve seen Chinese lanterns floating across the sky once in my life. I have however, waded ankle deep in plastic and assorted aquatic detritus along the western Angelsey coast.

I know that the sea bed and shores hereabouts are littered with old wrecks, sunken fishing nets and lobster pots. Drums leaking oil and hydraulic fluid, in fact, all manner of man made pollution. I also know that onshore many pasture fields are littered with barbed wire and bits of rusty stock fencing, corrugated sheets and old bedsteads rammed in the boundaries. Plastic feed bags and jagged plastic buckets. But lets ignore the real threat to the environment which stems from the way the land and sea is exploited for profit and instead, wring our hands over Chinese lanterns and litter tossed around a mountain slum.

One of my much quoted political and environmental heroes, the US Eco/Anarchist Edward Abbey wrote.. 

I tossed my empty out the window and popped the top from another can of Schlitz. Littering the public highway? Of course I litter the public highway. Every chance I get. After all, it’s not the beer cans that are ugly; it’s the highway that is ugly.

I’m not sure if Abbey really did this or was he mischievously winding up one of his favourite targets, those he called ‘kneejerk liberals'. Its not that Abbey as an anarchist was a friend of the Right, but as with above examples, I think that his contempt was for those who obsess about relatively minor issues like litter, but who close their eyes to the really big environmental and political issues which are really causing the degradation of natural habitats and wildlife.

Of course, as a park ranger and someone who worked on a remote fire lookout tower as a fire spotter, Abbey had witnessed first hand the powers that be such as the National Park Authorities, driving roads into previously pristine natural environments to service the burgeoning car tourist industry. Where once bloomed deserts and virgin forests came tarmac highways, camp sites, tourist centres and gas stations. Little wonder that he considered the humble Schlitz can an irrelevance in great scheme of environmental concerns.

Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban...EA-Desert Solitaire

Of course,the impact of motorized transport clogging up our narrow roads, lanes and car parks is a far bigger problem here in the overcrowded UK than it is in the less densely populated US.

Careful with that ecological time bomb Eugene!

Given that we live in a tiny overpopulated country then it is inevitable that our wilder places will become increasingly despoiled and polluted.That natural habitats will shrink as new roads and housing takes priority over rural conservation, and that native species of fish, mammals and birds will decline and in some cases become extinct as their habitats are wiped out by bad farming practice and the tumorous growth of urban sprawl.

As a society we show little respect for our environment be it urban or rural. We accept pollution as a natural consequence of the material consumer world we inhabit and turn a blind eye to our own highly destructive lifestyles.Our addiction to air travel....because how else can we go climbing in the Atlas Mountains or skiing in Whistler! We upgrade our iPhones regularly and consume gadgets like there is no tomorrow. We drive big SUV's and Camper vans-yes me too- and spend a fortune on food; a third of which goes into land fill. We jam up the motorways each weekend and sit in gridlocked cities in the working week.But what is all that compared to the cataclysmic ecological impact of Chinese lanterns and crisp bags on Snowdon!

Final word to Edward Abbey who could never be accused of not seeing the wood from the trees....

When the cities are gone and all the ruckus has died away. When sunflowers push up through the concrete and asphalt of the forgotten interstate freeways. When the Kremlin & the Pentagon are turned into nursing homes for generals, presidents, & other such shit heads. When the glass-aluminum sky scraper tombs of Phoenix, AZ barely show above the sand dunes. Why then, by God, maybe free men and wild women on horses can roam the sagebrush canyonlands in freedom...and dance all night to the music of fiddles! banjos! steel guitars! by the light of a reborn moon!

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting post and you're quite right that there's too much focus on relatively minor issues.
    On the other hand, an issue like littering seems easy to fix because it's all down to individual behaviour and choice... no-one has to do it. And it seems symptomatic of lack of understanding/respect for the mountain. Especially on other summits which people have to reach under their own steam – you'd think there'd be less litter but there's still too much.
    But of course litter isn't just an individual issue. Pick up a packed lunch at your hotel or even at an outdoor centre and it may well include a can of pop or a bottle of mineral water. Because it's apparently 'easier' to do that than encourage everyone to use reusable containers. Bottled water is a perfect exemplar of the product no-one actually needs.