Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Judgement, Technology, and Wild Places

The Thought Kitchen has an interesting post on the Oregon Legislature considering a bill that would require parties on Mt. Hood to carry electronic signaling devices during parts of the year.

Bad idea. Having worked in the Presidential Range of NH and the North Woods of Maine for several years, I have lugged injured hikers off the mountain, patch up injured canoeists and had friends that almost paid, or did pay, the ultimate price while in the wild. Forcing a load of people to carry electronic communication devices (yes, I know a lot probably use them now) makes it more likely that someone without the necessary judgment or experience will rely on that phone or GPS transmitter rather than their own wits. That ends up with a lot more rescue trips, many unnecessary, and that puts everyone at a greater risk.

So, do we need to compel folks to use technology to be safe in wild places?

Not unless you want to use it.

Good judgment, experience, a compatible group, and a willingness to turn back will always trump carrying an electronic device. In this age of 24 hour news cycles, where shrill stories of stranger danger, lyme disease, and hour by hour coverage of lost mountaineers, it's easy for dumb, reactive responses like compulsory carrying of GPS tracking units, to come into focus. These news stories are usually written by folks who haven't stepped foot out of their backyards in years.

All the more reason for people to reconnect with nature.

Those who wish to rely on this type of technology should be able to carry them (but not use them as a crutch for real judgment). But for the government to compel folks to bring a transmitter into the woods or up on the mountain simply negates the reasons that many of us go to wild places.


When I looked at The Thought Kitchen post the other day, I noticed the May 23, but not the 2007 date...anyways, even though this is really an outdated issue, it still is worth considering. I don't know what happened with the Oregon bill. It should be noted to that the
Thought Kitchen is part of Nau, who have regretfully for all of us, announced that they are shutting down their business. Check out their website quick, and buy some of their remaining stock, it's great stuff. Hopefully their fine blog will remain viable.