The stagnation of Caving: A brief essay

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Kenilworth

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Again, I must tackle this topic from the standpoint of one living in rural America. My outlook on cave conservation is influenced by my outlook on land conservation, which is necessarily influenced by my surroundings and experiences. I live in a rural area under threat of the complete loss of community, and explore caves in this and other rural areas in similar or worse conditions. Here, perhaps more than in the most mechanized megalopolis, is the easy evidence that we exploit whatever we value, but defend what we love. This gives rise to my concerns about the desire for growth of institutionalized caving that is expressed constantly by the institutions. For love of the cave is no precondition for love of caving, and the caving institutions I am aware of approach conservation as a learned chore, not as a natural response to affection.

The caves in these places have been exposed to little caver traffic. They have entered into my affection as the hills and streams and pastures have. But unlike the hills and streams and pastures, many of them are largely intact.  I think about them constantly, and as many questions as I have about what I might still find in them, I have an equal number about how to best take care of them. I have not always answered these questions properly, and, in my impatience, I have sometimes ignored my own answers. While my carelessness has caused some unnecessary destruction, I have made improvements and am nearing a sort of balance that I feel is defensible, based on my best understanding of the individual caves under my influence. While I would never insist that my standards are the best ones, I do insist that no ethical standards can exist without much thought, patience, and affection. Do I think that a growing ?caving community? would equal an increase in thought, patience, and affection? No.

But would a decrease in caving be as disastrous culturally as an increase would be ecologically (and spiritually, and culturally)? Aricooperdavis evidently believes so.

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In arguing that the stagnation of caving would be an unwelcome development, Aricooperdavis cites three areas that might be negatively impacted: 1. The financial concerns of cave-related trades/commerce. 2. Overall human happiness levels. 3. Scientific potential.

It is impossible to deny that a decrease of cavers would mean a decrease in gear sales. Probably some shops would have to close, and some more would have to adapt their inventories. This matter of livelihood is not a trivial one, and for anyone to lose their business is of course a clear negative. I can only respond that the threat to individual businesses catering to cavers is real and imminent, no matter what happens to caver populations.

I cannot see, on the other hand, that the stagnation of recreational caving would have a lot of impact on commercial caving. In fact, in the absence of active clubs, many new, tourist-type cavers with a casual or occasional interest could have their need for spelean adventure met by professional services. If online searches directed potential cavers to guided experiences instead of clubs or cave locations, perhaps business would increase while traffic in other caves would decrease. This is all highly speculative of course. I don?t know enough about the matter to safely predict the behavior of spelean consumers, but I don?t see any reason to count professional caving as a loss.

Overall human happiness levels. This argument is borne of the conflation of quality with quantity that is the basis of much rhetoric from ?progressive? cultural statisticians. It is a popular lie that everyone has a right to everything, with no concern given to responsibility. I have not proposed taking anything away from anyone, and I will not; this is a discussion of a slowly (but hopefully not too slowly) diminishing institution. But that it is diminishing seems to me proof that it should diminish, for what is the alternative? To prop up an institution is pointless if the threat to its existence is disinterest. We today are more disinterested in the natural world than any group of people in history. We are unsurpassingly apathetic and ignorant, and our bodies are weaker and more useless than ever before. And we are distracted my innumerable material baubles.

Should we make efforts to fight this apathy? To reconnect people to the land? Yes. Should we do it through caving? No. Caves are not an ideal place for newcomers to the planet. To claim that a world where institutionalized caving has become dormant would be a sadder world is to ignore the question of quality, to underestimate the cavers who would continue to maintain vibrant communities, and to give precedence to the hypothetical ?rights? of current non-cavers.

A loss of scientific potential, if taken to mean opportunities for academic science, is something that doesn?t deserve mourning. The science of universities is not married to the world it studies. Science that serves no purpose but to fill quotas of publishable papers or student theses is, in a cave environment, simply exploitation. But if taken to mean the learning that comes from affection, from fascination, from a desire to understand and care for, the loss of ?caving? will have little impact on scientific potential. There will always be interested and intelligent people exploring caves, asking questions, and answering them. And these questions will be easier to ask and to answer if the landscapes that inspire them are intact.

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I believe that a stagnation of Caving, even one leading to extinction, would be a net positive. There will never be an end to cave exploration. No sorts of regulations or clubs or politics will ever dictate the activities of a significant number of cave explorers who will be bound by nothing more than their character, abilities, and initiative. These people already exist, and there could be more of them. The absence of institutionalized caving would free the caver to find motivation and inspiration from within himself and his real, physical, immediate community, untainted by formulaic practice and an oversimplified ?conservation ethic?. Without recreational caving organizations, it would be revealed that ego, competition, narcissism, and the faux counterculture of caving were responsible for much more than an acceptable amount of wear on places the contestants were not worthy of. If Caving continues to stagnate, a few things will be lost. A few dollars. Some tourists won?t know what they?re missing, A few human legacies will be more quickly forgotten. A few inconsequential studies will remain undone. It is a matter of personal values, but I reckon that alongside even a small chance of regaining and preserving a principled reciprocity with our lands, these losses are gladly sufferable.
 

NewStuff

New member
You've just rubbished the hobby, something we're very passionate about, on the most active forum for that hobby? You've effectively dismissed us as mindless idiots incapable of forethought before action. glossed over people dedicating lives to this, and completely ignored the fact that *humans explore*.

 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
[gmod]Please refrain from using insults and swearing to make a point. As my dear old mum used to say, "it ain't big and it ain't clever". In any case other users report them and moderators will take action. Thank you.[/gmod]
 

Vulcan

Member
Kenilworth said:
The science of universities is not married to the world it studies. Science that serves no purpose but to fill quotas of publishable papers or student theses is, in a cave environment, simply exploitation.

I disagree. The research group I am in is developing plastics that repair holes and cuts in themselves (self healing polymers). I know you previously stated you have no interest in technology but you are in the minority.

Forgive me if I remembered wrong but you said you have never been to university. If you have never been yourself where did you get your information on the science in universities?
 

Dave Tyson

Member
I am sorry but I completely disagree with your view and will happily carry on caving along with the rest of us in the UK.

Cave conservation is important to preserve as much as possible for future generations, but it has zero effect on the the rest of the human population. If you are going to argue and push for conservation then maybe you should direct your efforts into areas which do have an impact on human lives - like rainforest depletion, illegal logging and fracking. Without wishing to be to 'yar boo sucks to you' I would suggest that it's the good old US of A finance which props up a lot of the undesirable activity. Be interesting to see how conservation fares under trump...

Dave

[Speaking for himself and not Cambrian Caving Council]
 

Kenilworth

New member
Dave - I am much more interested in land conservation than I am in cave conservation. But I explore caves, and this is a caving forum. It is obvious beyond the need for suggestion that the US is responsible for unspeakable waste. I am not... a patriot, so no chance of any fun with nationalistic arguments.
 

Vulcan

Member
I disagree with your statement that the science, eg research, done in universities has no purpose except to to fill quotas of publishable papers or student theses.

For progress to occur new products/technology have to be developed, then commercialised. For this to happen you need to have the fundamental knowledge in the area. This research can ether be done in universities or in industry. This progress will occur in the future, for example to develop renewable energy/new energy sources, whether you view this as a positive or a negative.

Me mentioning the self healing polymers was a example of why this research isn't pointless, for example if you carrier bag is made of a self healing polymer, of it gets a hole in it will repair by its self, preventing it being put in the bin and ultimately landfill (they are rarely recycled). This prevents the energy and finite resources (eg oil) that when into making it being wasted.
 

royfellows

Well-known member
Kenilworth said:
................ This argument is borne of the conflation of quality with quantity that is the basis of much rhetoric from ?progressive? cultural statisticians. It is a popular lie that everyone has a right to everything, with no concern given to responsibility........................... We are unsurpassingly apathetic and ignorant, and our bodies are weaker and more useless than ever before. And we are distracted by innumerable material baubles.

Please excuse an off thread comment but it has long been a contention of mine that if you take someone whose views are directly opposed to ones own (in this case very true of Mr K and myself) and talk long enough you will eventually find a point upon which you mutually agree.
This is true of the above comments, I agree with these singular points in entirety.
But surely then the second is contrary to the overall opinion being expressed. Caving as a physically demanding activity involving a lot of exercise which is good for ones body is possibly a good reason to encourage it?
 

MarkS

Moderator
A lot of the OP seems fairly self evident. Fewer people in caves = better preserved caves. Whether that equates to an "overall" net positive depends on what people feel they gain from going caving. This probably varies wildly depending on where, when and who you ask the question, so it seems somewhat futile to distill it down to a single conclusion.

Me personally? I get enough out of caving to want to encourage others to try it too. I cave within and outside of clubs. I don't think for a second that conservation practices promoted within clubs I'm involved with are in any way negative or detrimental to caves, or that, 'ego, competition, narcissism, and the faux counterculture of caving,' are prevalent or even relevant to the impact club trips have on caves. It sounds to me like you've had a somewhat different experience of club caving than me. :-\
 

Kenilworth

New member
Vulcan said:
For progress to occur new products/technology have to be developed, then commercialised..

That depends on where you're progressing to.

I believe in the idealistic future of industrial science exactly as much as I believe in the "good old days", that is, not at all. In this I am, as you or someone else have mentioned, a minority.
There are some scientists who are concerned with the dangerous oversimplifications and headfirst faith of the sort of "progress" you are describing. They too are a minority.

Self-healing bags are surely a cause for orgasmic ecstasy, but what is the connection to cave conservation and academic cave studies?
 

Ian Adams

Well-known member
How many undiscovered caves exist on the planet?

Of the overall number that exist in totality, would it be 5%?  10%?  33%?  75%  99%?  (I have no actual idea)

It seems self-evident that those caves are benefitting from a 100% conservation process (as advocated by the OP)

Of those, how many will be disturbed by humans?  5%?  10%?  33%?  75%?  99%?  (Again, I have no actual idea)
This could be discovery, unknowingly quarrying away, bombing in warzones etc.

How many will "suffer" through the process of nature?    5%?  10%?  33%?  75%?  99%?  (Yet again, I have no actual idea)
This could be earthquakes, natural sinkholes or dolines, flooding causing internal collapses and therefore internal destruction etc.


Probably, there is no definable (or agreeable) answer. I understand the philosophy that the OP is putting forward but I think reality renders it mute.

Ian.


 

Kenilworth

New member
royfellows said:
Kenilworth said:
................ This argument is borne of the conflation of quality with quantity that is the basis of much rhetoric from ?progressive? cultural statisticians. It is a popular lie that everyone has a right to everything, with no concern given to responsibility........................... We are unsurpassingly apathetic and ignorant, and our bodies are weaker and more useless than ever before. And we are distracted by innumerable material baubles.

Please excuse an off thread comment but it has long been a contention of mine that if you take someone whose views are directly opposed to ones own (in this case very true of Mr K and myself) and talk long enough you will eventually find a point upon which you mutually agree.
This is true of the above comments, I agree with these singular points in entirety.
But surely then the second is contrary to the overall opinion being expressed. Caving as a physically demanding activity involving a lot of exercise which is good for ones body is possibly a good reason to encourage it?

Caving is good for the body, no doubt (where I am, looking for caves is even better). But I think that caves are too singular and irreparable to be used as mere gyms.
 

Vulcan

Member
Kenilworth - there isn't one. It's me trying to show you science done in universities isn't pointless and does have real world applications.
 

royfellows

Well-known member
Ian Adams said:
How many undiscovered caves exist on the planet?

Of the overall number that exist in totality, would it be 5%?  10%?  33%?  75%  99%?  (I have no actual idea)

It seems self-evident that those caves are benefitting from a 100% conservation process (as advocated by the OP)

Of those, how many will be disturbed by humans?  5%?  10%?  33%?  75%?  99%?  (Again, I have no actual idea)
This could be discovery, unknowingly quarrying away, bombing in warzones etc.

How many will "suffer" through the process of nature?    5%?  10%?  33%?  75%?  99%?  (Yet again, I have no actual idea)
This could be earthquakes, natural sinkholes or dolines, flooding causing internal collapses and therefore internal destruction etc.


Probably, there is no definable (or agreeable) answer. I understand the philosophy that the OP is putting forward but I think reality renders it mute.

Ian.

Absolutely!
(y)
 

Kenilworth

New member
I find it worrying that I am perceived as having advocated a "100% conservation process".

If that is taken to be my stance, then nothing else I have written makes any sense. Not that it does anyway, in the eyes of most readers.
 
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