The response from groups and individuals has been overwhelming and I appreciate all the messages of support, all the suggestions, all the offers of volunteering, and of course, all those who have signified their intent to join the activity. I am also thankful to our friends in the DENR for recognising mountaineers as a partner for the environment and assisting us in this activity.
The list of hiking clubs who have committed to conduct clean-up climbs on May 10 are listed in my original post about the initiative - you can see the list here. This list is not all-encompassing. Please do not be disheartened if you do not see your group on the list. You do not have to be included in the list to hold your clean-up climb. The purpose of the list is to encourage others to follow, either on May 10 or throughout the year. Indeed, our experiences in doing this collective clean-up should be fed back and thought through in order to guide future clean-ups.
While I am appreciative of the desire of many groups and individuals to join the activity, we must understand that not everyone should be in the same mountains at the same time. Another reason why we have a list is to inform everyone that there are clubs that are already planning clean-ups for particular mountains. Even as we do a collective clean-up, we must keep the number of people on the mountains to a minimum. Moreover, it makes little sense for groups to do clean-ups in places where a group has already picked up all the trash. This is why groups who are organising clean-up climbs on the same mountain should coordinate with each other. And this is also why groups who want to participate should consider picking other mountains, or other dates. But I must repeat that I do appreciate your initiative and your interest. Your support is important if we are to keep the mountains clean.
I have also received messages from individuals who want to participate in the Clean-up Day but they cannot find any groups to join. What I can say now is I do appreciate your eagerness to be part of the activity. In future clean-ups, I would recommend coming up with a mechanism that will accept individuals to join designated hikes. At this point, however, I ask you to bear with us as this is a very new activity and it is easier to coordinate with groups. Again, the spirit of the Clean-up Day is something that should be with us throughout the year and by being responsible mountaineers, you are taking part in what we aim to accomplish for the mountains.
We have been thinking through - with the DENR - how to best conduct the clean-ups, and I urge everyone to read the Guiding Document we have drafted for this occasion (click here for the link). This is a non-binding document and there will be specificities that we cannot account for. But I think it is a good starting point to plan your clean-up. What must be emphasised here is the importance of ensuring that all the waste collected will be turned over to a waste disposal facility. It is not enough to bring down trash from the summit to the campsite, or to the village. We want to set a good example and we want to make sure that the garbage is disposed properly. Moreover, every clean-up climb is a climb, and as such, participants are expected to be prepared according, and to follow the rules and principles of outdoor recreation.
There have been some requests for shirts but as I have said from the beginning, I do not wish for this movement to have any form of transactions - such as shipments of shirts, transfer of money, registration fees - and all that stuff. That is why I have asked my friend, Dr. Ulysses Gopez, to come with a logo that is open source (see above) and can be used by anyone for their own shirts. We are united here not by the same shirt or the same ID, but by the same purpose.
This reflects my attitude towards this whole activity - I do not want it to be a monolithic mega-activity happening nationwide. I want it to be a movement that everyone - every participant, every group- can claim ownership of. Thus I do see myself as the organiser of an event, but merely the coordinator of many events that happen to coincide on a single day and a single goal.
Having such a decentralised setup will have its own problems. Our partners in the DENR have already spoken of the difficulty, legally speaking, of identifying the 'entity' they are formally dealing with in coming up with the event. Moreover, we do not really have a way of monitoring how the groups will conduct their clean-ups. Some may not live up to the standards we have suggested, and this may be the grounds for others to criticise the entire activity. I can already imagine accusations of 'mass climbing' and others, founded upon pictures of people congregating upon the mountains. Like I said from the beginning I too am strongly against this. But even with these built-in complications of a decentralised 'initiative', the greater good of having many mountains cleaned up, and in a way that has the gravitas to spark a message of environmental consciousness in and beyond the mountaineering community, compels me to keep believing in the rightness and timeliness of this cause. Those who focus on the negative will of course find something negative, but in an imperfect world, we should open our eyes to the good and to the positive because there lies our hope for a better future.
Moreover, considering the fractious history of initiatives and organisations within the mountaineering community, I think we should not be distracted by groups or individuals at the helm. We should instead be united by ideas, by things we believe in. As such, I do hope that in the coming years, the groups who organised clean-up climbs this year will make it an annual tradition to do so.
To the organizers of the climbs, I invite you - or your representatives - to join me on our meeting with the DENR on April 23 that will also count as a sort of pre-climb for the activity. Please join the Facebook group for the organisers and volunteers for more details, and for more updates. I urge you anew to review the Guiding Document and to coordinate with the local government, particularly for planning the waste disposal; and with other groups (if any) organising clean-ups on the same mountain so you can designate areas for different groups to clean-up.
To the participants, be prepared physically and mentally for the clean-up day. Make sure you bring the right gear and the right mindset, and be supportive of your team leaders. Be extra careful in your actions on the mountains; remember that as participants of the clean-up day, we have to set a good example for others. I hope you will find the activity meaningful and enjoyable!
To everyone, I thank you for the support that you have given this Clean-Up - which is the first that I have launched an initiative. Surely the success of this effort - whatever relationships that we can form here, whatever experiences and lessons we will gain - will encourage us to pursue other endeavours for the environment and hopefully allow us to be of help to the mountains that have given us so much.
April 19, 2014
April 19, 2014