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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hats off to John Sherman

I'd like to invite everyone who so admires the poster of John Sherman hanging one-handed from a cliff with beer in hand to remember that he sold out to the people who just stole Apache Leap and Queen Creek, ancestral lands for the local Native American tribes, a summer haven from the heat for the residents of the town of Superior, and a world-class climbing and hiking destination.

I'd like to remind those of you who still worship old John that his capitulation and the collusion of several other prominent climbers was used by Resolution to divide and conquer the climbing community and to misrepresent climbers' support of the land swap and mining practices. 

So: a toast! Hats off to shops that suck up to celebrity without truly knowing the history of those iconic figures- it's great that you make your ignorance so obvious, and clearly define yourselves as putting industry over humans or the environment.

Special recognition to the Arizona climbers who used this opportunity to grind 20-yr-old axes and never once got a single one of themselves arrested or had their pic on the front page of the newspaper for demonstrating, inconveniencing the mine and/or shutting down production in any of the ways we used to- oh, say- end the Viet Nam war, save the rain forests and alter the global perceptions of climate change.

Oh, that's right... you all wrote a check, went to a meeting and signed a petition.  

Your work was obviously done.

Never mind.

So hats off to John Sherman! An idealist who said that sport climbing was neither and then sold out to a foreign-owned mining company with ties to Iran and China for the chance to fund his development of sport climbing. 

A pragmatist, who sold out his fellow climbers and sacrificed a cultural heritage he doesn't share in a state where he did not live to make a dollar.

edited for typo, clarity and post-script:

Climbers, we have surrendered.

Surrendered to bureaucracy and to the bandwagon, to going along to get along.

Surrendered to a credo of rationalization instead of action.

We let the advocates who sell out to corporations convince us that, against all the lessons and examples of history, the best course to change is one without confrontation.  

No calls to peaceful sit-ins or mass acts of non-violent protest from the members of advocacy groups that sell themselves on their strength in numbers but fail to carry out the simplest of rallying activities to support their causes.

(Or did I miss the busloads of climbers being shipped from cities across america to rally for Queen Creek?  Were we too busy preparing for the massive carbon-footprint-in-the-making that is Bozeman and the hypocritical media frenzy of Ouray?)

No posts about either the fight for or the loss of this land on 99% of the climbing websites I've browsed over the last week... including those here in West Virginia, where the mountains to our west are being blasted flat for coal, while conservation groups blockade wind farms and the fracking rigs slowly creep across the Allegheny Front, pushing toward Seneca Rocks, Nelson, Champe, Judy Gap, and Smoke Hole Canyon.

But not a word on the local climbing sites, from the local guides or among regional AF folk.

Denial, anyone?

Yes, I am judgmental and harsh and perhaps a touch vindictive- I don't know how many decades you need to lose your glossy shine of oblivion and start to see that we are losing the war for our own lands? 

For me, the answer was about two... I started fighting this fight when I was in my twenties, paused for a bit into my thirties, discovered the lands we have just lost, fell in love with them as deeply as my own green eastern forests and have been in it one way or another ever since.

If we bury our heads in the sand, if we worship celebrities for who they were, without holding them responsible for the positions they've taken and for the inevitable results of their actions, are we just as guilty?  How do Joe Kinder's gardening of two saplings in a crack look when compared to the global environmental impact of another massive mine, whose wholesale destruction of not only recreational opportunities and historical geography but sacred cultural lands of the Native population has been tacitly accepted by a climbing icon, in return for a paycheck?

Where are the editorials and rallying cries from Rock and Ice, Climbing, DPM, or Alpinist?

If we allow those who should be leading and coordinating to instead blockade progress and create more issues than they solve, if we think only in terms of the Pollyanna dogma pushed on us by the vendors, and blindly obey advocates who have never, truly, had our best interests at heart, we will lose Seneca, and the North Fork, Champe, Judy, Nelson, and much of the Blue Ridge. 

Can't happen?

I heard the same thing when I lived in Arizona, in the late 90s and into the new millennium.

Prophecy is a tricky thing, but the worst case scenario seems to come to fruition far more often than the best possible outcome. What happens when, not if, but when Corridor H opens and Route 33 dies away as routine maintenance and cash-carrying traffic goes over the mountains somewhere else, while Seneca and the gas rigs vanish from the public mind and eye?  

Are you willing to bet that the budget-strapped Department of Agriculture and the impoverished Monongahela National Forest will choose users who create impact while paying nothing to the system over corporations and lobbyists waving around amounts in the millions?

I wouldn't bet the farm on another decade of life as it has always been, in Germany Valley, Smoke Hole, or anywhere in the MNF.

If Congress and the President can give away lands that are layered with history, cornerstones of the local ecology, economy, and Native cultures thousands of years old, what makes you think they cannot and will not crave their way through West Virginia, just as they did with the gas lines, PATH and Corridor H? 

What is to stop them from carving their way into the Blue Ridge, across the Skyline Drive, and on to whatever gas-bearing layers they can find, where ever they may find them?

The time for denial, and for blind obedience or worship, is over.

Time to grow up and join the fight, or admit that you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Thank you to Curt Shannon, Manuel Rangel, and all the other fightin' climbers of this country, inside and out of the Access Fund, who truly did give it their best. You have only failed when you fail to try, and there is no shame for those who fought. 

I know you will never truly surrender.

I only wish I could have done so much more.

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