Respecting Nature: A Ten-Second Rant

[tons and tons of water per cubic meter]

This has nothing to do with books. Just a warning. Over the past week two people have lost their lives in Yosemite, resulting in a barrage of comments and opinions on social media. My two cents.

In the past week two people have died in Yosemite National Park, one after swimming too close to a waterfall, and another while rock climbing. These tragedies are just two of the many deaths that happen there every year- now that the Half Dome cables went up last week the number will probably increase. Public outcry is always conflicted- one side will say that Yosemite needs to do more to protect people (even more signs, railings, rangers, etc...) and the other will, a tad insensitively, say that the people deserved to die for trying to survive Mother Nature. 

[Some say death trap, some say a good time if rules are followed]

My personal opinion lies somewhere between the two- most people really don't deserve to die. Yes, I'd say 90% of the deaths at Yosemite are avoidable, but the loss of a life is always a tragedy. The 19-year-old that fell to his death because he was swimming too close to Nevada Falls had a family and friends that are now grieving. The man that was hit by a dislodged rock while climbing El Capitan yesterday also leaves a full life and people behind. As do the hikers that go off trails and fall down ravines, the people that climb up Half Dome in lightning storms, and those thinking that the deceivingly calm, cool waters of the Tuolumne will soothe their sore feet. 

[No one wants to fall on those rocks]

The danger extends past the the people themselves, though. The Yosemite Search and Rescue (SAR) also risk their lives every time they receive a call for a trapped climber, stranded hiker, or drowning swimmer. Their families have to live with the fear that their husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers may not return from their attempt to save the husband, wife, mother, father, sister or brother of someone else. Not to mention the funding that's required to send out a team (especially if there's a helicopter involved).

For me, this idea of these accidents being avoidable is most bothersome. The fact is, yes, they're accidents, but they come from a sense of entitlement- a lack of respect for nature and the park as a whole. People feel that they should be able to go wherever they please. If I want to go all purist on the issue, Yosemite Valley shouldn't even be a park; there shouldn't be roads that bring in pollution, trails that lead to plants being cleared away, or buildings that require electricity. I'm not that extreme, though, so I feel that with careful management the Valley can be enjoyed by people. People that obey the posted regulations that have been carefully put in place for the protection of human lives and nature itself, that is. 

[Climb at your own risk]
Every time someone defies the rules and is hurt, the chances of parts of the park being closed increases. Every time someone defies the rules and is hurt, the chances of the park considering even more unnecessary precautions increases. Every time someone defies the rules and is hurt, the chances of someone else's experiences at one of the most beautiful places in the country being ruined increases. 

I guess my main point is that nature demands respect. If you want to swim in her waters, climb her mountains, and hike her valleys you must understand that you may get hurt or even die. And when you take that risk you are affecting the people in your lives, those who would try to rescue you, and others who are trying to enjoy the park. It is you responsibility to keep yourself safe and to be aware of your surroundings. Yosemite doesn't need more fences, stairs, hand rails, or signs. Death is a tragedy- even more so when it can be avoided.

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