logo

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon


image

News

Sep 30, 2015

Nepal considers age, experience and disability restrictions for Everest

Nepal Tourism says Everest could be banned for inexperienced and physically disabled climbers; proposes an age limit of 18-75 yrs.

WRITTEN BY

Supriya Vohra

Five months after disaster struck Nepal, the tourism officials are mulling over restriction criteria for those attempting Everest. They have cited “safety” and “glory of the mountain” as prime reasons, evoking a sharp response from young and veteran climbers around the globe.

According to Gobinda Bahadur Karkee, Director General of Department Tourism (MoCTCA), “We are in the process of making a set of criteria for Everest. We are trying to put an age limit, a minimum of 16 years, and maximum of 75 years. Very young and very old people should not attempt climbing the mountain. We also do not want disabled people, those that are completely blind or those without legs or arms to climb the mountain.”

“Most important, we cannot have inexperienced climbers attempting Everest. They must have climbed a peak of at least 6500m before they attempt Everest,” he told The Outdoor Journal over telephone.

“We have to value the tallest mountain in the world. Till now, anyone with money and permit from their country could attempt Everest. You have to be able to climb the mountain on your own, and not by holding hands of your guide.”

Asked if a mountaineer was involved in setting the criteria, he said, “No not yet. But we might consult them in future.”

The proposal was announced around the time when Japanese climber Nobokazu Kuriki decided to abandon his attempt to summit Everest, after reaching the final camp last Saturday (26th September). According to his Facebook updates, “….it took too much time to move in deep deep snow. I realized if I kept going, I wouldn’t be able to come back alive, so I decided to descend.”

The climber was making a summit push alone without oxygen.

While there is a general agreement on the need for regulation (approx 600 climbers attempt Everest every year) and not allowing novices to attempt the peak, the global mountaineering community has given a mixed response to the government’s proposal.

Elizabeth Hawley, an Everest chronicler based in Nepal told AFP, “I don’t think the government is in any position to judge someone’s capacities or draw that line for mountaineers.”

She further cited examples of physically disabled climbers who have summited Everest, including blind American Erik Weihenmayer who scaled the peak in May 2001 and seven years later, became the only visually-impaired person to summit the highest mountains on all seven continents.

For New Zealander Mark Inglis, who became the first double amputee to summit Everest in 2006 (he lost both his legs to frostbite), the officials should look at competency as criteria.

“The whole concept of restricting disabled – even the use of that word – is just wrong, because it really doesn’t matter how many limbs you’ve got, but how able you are.” he was quoted by NZHerald.

For Indian climber Arjun Vajpai, who in 2010 became the youngest in the world to summit Everest, it is a good move by the government to bring down the numbers on Everest. “It is a tricky situation for the government, they need to choose their criteria carefully,” he told The Outdoor Journal.

“I completely agree with Mr. Inglis that physical disability should not be a criteria to decide who gets to climb Everest, but the criteria about experience is important,” he said.

“As far as age is concerned, I think whoever attempts the big mountain needs to have done their mountaineering courses,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nepal Mountaineering Assocation (NMA) president Ang Tsering Sherpa seemed skeptical about the government’s proposal. In a report in The Guardian, ‘he said the new rules had been frequently discussed in the past’ adding “I doubt this will be implemented. Earlier such plans were aborted because of pressure from human rights organisations and foreign embassies.”

Everest has been a subject of criticism and controversy for several years now. A peak that was once attempted only by established mountaineers gradually became a commercial venture, where anyone with basic ice axe and crampons and assistance from Sherpas could climb the big mountain. Nepal’s government has proposed measures in the past to make climbing safer, which included changing the route and raising insurance for Sherpas by 50%.

Feature Image: From Everest Base Camp April 2015 after the earthquake (http://6summitschallenge.com/)

Continue Reading

image

Boulder

Sep 17, 2018

“Frack”-tured Community: Colorado’s Proposition 112 to Direct Future of Natural Gas Drilling

The grassroots initiative, which Boulder voters will see on the ballot come November, would mandate a state-wide, half-mile “buffer zone” of fracking wells from occupied buildings.

image

WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

Hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as “fracking”, has been controversial since it became the widespread method of shale gas production over the past decade. The technique involves pumping millions of gallons of highly-pressurized water and chemicals into deep shale formations to proliferate cracks and free gas for extraction. On Colorado’s crowded Front Range, where land is a premium, active wells operate within arm’s reach of houses, schools, and other occupied structures.

Fracking proponents say that the practice has drastically increased U.S. natural gas production, lowered energy prices, and reduced carbon dioxide emissions via displacing coal burning in electricity generation. Opponents of fracking cite many potential health and environmental hazards of the practice including methane leakage, groundwater contamination, radioactive wastewater, and well fires.

significantly more likely to have a low birth-weight baby

According to Colorado Rising, a grassroots non-profit committed to exposing fracking’s health and safety concerns, fracking’s toll on public health outweighs the economic benefits. Research from the Colorado Public School of Health indicates that proximity to fracking operations poses serious risks to health and safety. Among these risks include exposure to cancer-causing toxins such as benzene and air pollutants. An analyses of public health research at the University of Chicago examined correlation between prenatal health and proximity to fracking wells and found that mothers living within a half-mile radius of active wells were significantly more likely to have a low birth-weight baby than mothers who lived farther away. This half-mile radius, incidentally, is the amount of buffer the ballot proposition would require.

The research is preliminary, however, as it cannot definitively prove point-source contamination. To date, no double-blind studies have ever linked fracking directly to low birth weights. But according to spokesperson Anne Lee Foster of Colorado Rising, “Weld County is the most fracked county (host to over 23,000 wells) and has twice the still-born rate of other Colorado counties”. She claims the spike in still-borns occurred in 2009, after a 2008 influx in natural gas drilling. But the list of environmental hazards does not end with carcinogens. The Colorado Rising report also condemns fracking’s environmental toll. Their briefing states that because of methane leakage, “…fracking, transporting and burning natural gas for electricity is likely as bad as or worse for climate change than coal or oil”. The jury is still out on this claim. Granted, fracking is energy-intensive and petrochemical-dependent, but burning natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as burning oil or gasoline. Methane leakage in drilling and pipeline transportation is minor, though Colorado Gas & Oil industry officials and public health activists like Colorado Rising disagree on the amount and impact of leakage.

Despite its controversy, there are approximately 50,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado, many of them concentrated in Boulder and Weld Counties. Under current legislature, fracking operations can take place 500 feet from an occupied home and 1,000 feet from a school building.

do Colorado residents share Foster’s precautionary mindset, or are the economic gains too good to forgo?

Public demand for an expanded mandatory buffer zone from occupied buildings compounded after a 2017 incident in which an open gas line from an operating well leaked into a Firestone home, causing an explosion that killed two. Colorado Rising wrangled over 172,000 signatures for their “Safer Setbacks from Fracking” initiative, which was subsequently approved for November’s ballot. The regulation would underscore the burgeoning research on detrimental public health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing—research that Colorado’s oil and gas industry might call inchoate and inconclusive. It would increase the mandatory buffer zone between oil and gas wells and occupied buildings to 2,500 feet—a move that the Colorado Petroleum Council has deemed “job-killing” and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association has said risks “more than $1 billion in taxes for schools, parks, and libraries, and our nation’s energy security”. And Weld County, situated on potent shale, has benefited from the incursion of jobs and money brought by the industry’s presence in the area.

The future of Colorado’s oil and gas sector is up in the air, and the proposed initiative would significantly reduce the amount of viable drilling land in populated regions of the state. As Anne Lee Foster summarizes, “the general consensus is that negative health impacts are possible, and it’s best to err on the side of caution”. November’s vote will tap into the metaphorical shale deposits of public sentiment towards fracking; do Colorado residents share Foster’s precautionary mindset, or are the economic gains too good to forgo?

Special thanks to Anne Lee Foster, who was interviewed for this piece. The Colorado Oil and Gas Board did not respond to request for commentary.

Cover photo courtesy of Brett Rindt.

Resources and Further Reading: A Denver Post report on fire and gas explosions, political commentary by Colorado Politics, a public health report by Colorado Rising, The Colorado Rising website, A Popular Mechanics article on 10 Most Controversial Claims About Natural Gas Drilling, A New York Times article,

https://coloradopolitics.com/setback-initiative-ballot/ (comments from COGCC)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1594bLT2U9nGsnWSSA4C5EAT3XZV-vDkB/view (public health report by Colorado Rising)

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/g161/top-10-myths-about-natural-gas-drilling-6386593/ (information on fracking misconceptions and research)

Interview with Anne Lee Foster of Colorado Rising on 9/5/2018

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/31/us/colorado-fracking-debates.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/business/energy-environment/colorado-activists-submit-petitions-for-referendums-on-fracking.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article&region=Footer

loadContinue readingLess Reading

Recent Articles



Adventure Tourism in India Leading to Deaths and Massive Environmental Degradation

Litigation against mass trekking operations has led to a ban on nearly all mountain tourism in Uttarakhand, leaving 100,000 jobless and an industry without a future. But this doesn't solve the problem or punish those responsible.

An Introduction to Olympic Surfing, with New Zealand’s Paige Hareb

Learn about surfing's induction into the Olympics, and how New Zealand's top surfer, Paige Hareb, is preparing for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Secrets of the Nahanni: The Valley of Headless Men

A team of river guides and storytellers venture into the "Valley of Headless Men" to uncover secrets of the past.