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July 11, 2014

Why the Problem with Our Society Lies at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon. ~ Brenna Fischer

Grand Canyon

Warning: naughty language ahead!

It’s okay to be smarter, more motivated, hard-working and driven. That’s what creates the drive and motivation to push our limits, further our knowledge and exceed our current physical abilities in the first place.

I don’t know what happened to our society but somehow these ideals have been cast aside in favor of an “everyone’s a winner” mentality. We’re getting awards for spelling our names right and just showing up but we shy away from awarding those who are more hard-working in an effort to protect ourselves from exclusion and possible embarrassment.

I think it’s ok to reward ourselves and to be proud of hard work that sets us apart. Otherwise, the drive to be better, to push our limits and find out what we are made of disappears.

First it was Machu Picchu with the paved trails and guided tours, then Everest with the fixed ladders, comfortable base camps and hand-holding to the summit and now it’s happening in the Grand Canyon.

When I think about the Grand Canyon, I think, hiking trails, unparalleled natural beauty, shooting stars and some pretty rad camping.

I do not think restaurants, hotels, shops or a huge imposing gondola!

The Native American tribes, primarily the Navajo, who claim to own the land around the South Rim think these new developments, will help to increase tourism. The gondola would provide visitors a “once-in-a-lifetime view” by providing them with the opportunity to go all the way to the bottom of the canyon floor. Currently, this part of the canyon is only accessible by foot or mule.

A gondola? Really? 

Apparently, this thing is supposed to run from the South Rim all the way to the bottom of the canyon floor!

Grand Canyon

Fortunately, the National Parks Service (NPS) disagrees with the addition of these developments saying they would be,

 …the most serious threat the park has faced in its 95-year history.

According to park officials the developments that already exist around the park combined with a decrease in water availability have pushed the park and its resources to the limit. At this point adding another stressor to the system would just make things worse. In fact, the new additions wouldn’t be able to support the current town and its wildlife. It would have to be one or the other…

According to the NPS,

Water is already so precious that the park’s resident elk herd recently figured out how to operate the Grand Canyon’s new water faucets and began serving themselves.

It seems ironic to me that developers are pitching this idea under the guise that the “improvements” will benefit the visitors and increase their chances to see those amazing views, when in fact the National Park Service says,

…the projects would alter the park’s vistas and jeopardize its fragile ecology and water supply. 

The flaw in this kind of thinking is that increasing luxury, convenience and ease in a place that is looked at in awe and is a symbol of inspiration because of its challenge and mystery would be taking all that away. As humans we want to be challenged, we thrive on it. By making access easier and watering down the challenge that sets places like Everest and the Grand Canyon apart we are doing ourselves a disservice.

The whole purpose of climbing something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain. But if you compromise the process you’re an asshole when you start and an asshole when you get back. ~ Yvon Chouinard

Maybe not everyone is meant to see the canyon from the bottom and maybe we’re not supposed to be able to eat McDonald’s in the presence of such a natural and unaltered landscape. The paradox would just be too much.

In my experience things that are given without hard work or without putting in the effort to earn them just don’t mean as much. It seems beauty like the Grand Canyon should mean something.

The environmental implications of these new developments are irresponsible but I feel the root of the problem lies with the reasoning to add these conveniences in the first place. If this project goes through, the message we are sending to ourselves and to our children is that it’s ok to get things the easy way, it’s ok not to work hard and everything should be convenient.

In the words of the Incredibles,

Everyone can be super. And when everyone’s super…no one will be.  

What do you think? Should a gondola be installed in the Grand Canyon?

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          Editor: Catherine Monkman

          Photo: Moyan_Brenn/Flickr Creative Commons

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Brenna Fischer