Recently, news outlets circulated a picture of a massive human traffic jam at the summit of Mount Everest. No one is talking about the grey landscape and disappearing ice sheets on Everest that are also visible in the picture. It seems that the circulated picture hides more than it reveals. How should my generation that is just beginning to understand these issues in school make sense of these narratives of Everest? There have been articles in major news outlets around the world to show how this traffic jam has affected the climbers, escalating the death toll and ruining the adventure of tourists.
It seems everyone wants a piece of the mountain, but no one is willing to talk about the looming death of the majestic Himalaya itself.
For decades, Mount Everest has been a global monument.
Climbing Everest is a feat of bravery, wealth, strength and willpower. However, these climbing adventures have never highlighted the struggles of the people living there, particularly the Sherpas, and the tragic impacts of climate change threatening the existence of the Himalayan range.
For decades, the issue of waste left behind by climbers has been raised time and again.
Not only are plastic bottles, tents and oxygen cylinders being left behind, but also tons of human waste and corpses, none of which decompose at low temperature. As the Himalayas are the source of water for people across the region, polluted sources affect much more than just nearby populations.
Not only is the rise in tourism affecting the mountain and sanitation of the area, it is also affecting the lives of the Sherpa people. The Sherpa population has a ridiculously high death rate, yet many cannot afford to leave their jobs and find safer working conditions. Despite the negative consequences that the mountain and those who live in the area are suffering from, the main focus seems to be on the climbers.
The issues have begun to pile up around the mountain, just like trash, with the only real benefit from the increased tourism in the area being the extra revenue. While people have respect for the mountain and consider its symbolic value in the region, there are not many actions that support this.
How can we advocate for dialogue to improve on the situation? For the younger generation like myself, it is imperative that we look at issues like these and do our part to help preserve the planet.
A version of this article appears in print on June 12, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.