Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ethical Trekking

I'd like to talk today about the ethics of trekking.

First of all, I've been accused of using my fundraising for Bletchley Park Trust and The National Museum of Computing to subsidise my vacations. Nothing could be further from the truth. While, in the UK, one does have the option to do this, I have not. I've laid out thousands of pounds on these treks. In fact, I've sadly laid out far more than I've raised when one counts in the cost of equipment. Indeed, I've just laid out another £620 for my airfare for April. ::faint:: The only thing that mollifies me there is that I hope that these stunts help to raise the profile of these admirable organisations and make people aware of the important work that they do and their desperate need for money.

Let me repeat, I do not ask donors to subsidise me. It doesn't sit well with my personal code of conduct. YMMV.

Moving on, some people question the ethics of trekking in the Himalaya because of the environmental and sociological changes that result. Here too, I agree that it's upsetting but there are things that can be done to minimise impact however it is unfair to expect the Sherpa community to live in some sort of bubble and trekking brings in much needed money so that this poverty stricken corner of the world can begin to build schools and medical centres and even distribute some electricity.

So how can we minimise our impact?

Step 1 - Ensure that you are using an ethical trekking company. They should supply your porter(s) with adequate and appropriate equipment for the conditions, not overload the porters, and provide medical services.

Step 2 - Bring your own water bottle. I touched upon this briefly in my previous post on Hydration. Don't forget that everything that isn't grown in the Khumbu Valley has to be flown in via Lukla and then carried either via yak or porter. Furthermore, non-biodegradable materials have to then be ported OUT, assuming that they are disposed of responsibly in the first place. So if you're planning to buy water, please don't. Which takes us to...

Step 3 - Pick it up! If you're caught short, make sure you have some baggies for your used toilet paper or wipes. There's nothing fouler than filthy wipings left by the side of the trail, caught in brush or, worst of all, floating on the breeze. If you smoke, keep your butts until you get to where you can dispose of them properly. Throughout Sagarmatha National Park there are bins for waste - use the bloody things.

Step 4 - Respect the water supply. Last year I saw some students washing their clothing in the stream at Pheriche. This too is a big no-no. People downstream have to use that water. If you must wash your smalls then do it in a basin and then dump the water away from the stream. Better yet, pay someone at your lodge to do your laundry thus adding much needed money into the community.

Step 5 - Ensure that the lodges that you stay in use solar power for heating hot water and kerosene for cooking. There are few enough trees up there as it is.

Right, I'll get off of my soapbox now.

Oh, and please don't forget to support The National Museum of Computing. ALL proceeds will go to TNMOC. I'm just as opposed to charity tourism or whatever the hell it's called as you are.

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