Author Topic: Commercial caving  (Read 9148 times)

Offline Kenilworth

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Commercial caving
« on: December 28, 2016, 05:51:23 am »
Many thanks to Newstuff for suggesting a topic upon which I could happily unleash my pencil and few workable brain cells during car rides over the past couple of days.

It has not been easy for me to begin a line of thought that deals with the propriety of commercial caving. Besides all the normal concerns for care of the cave is the added and important consideration of someone’s material livelihood. I can only reason on whether I might permit myself to earn such a living, and to do that it is helpful to reflect on my attitude toward my own secular work.

For the last dozen or so years I have made my money as a self-employed flooring installer. My work is categorized as a skilled trade, and I am supposedly a craftsman. In reality, I am mostly a deliverer of material goods. In installing the carpets and tiles and wood, I try to act as a craftsman, to work carefully skillfully and honestly, with respect for my tools and materials and customers, but the poor quality of my materials and the poor attitude of some of my customers, as well as the painful physicality of the work often leave me feeling nearer a slave of the commercial system and an animal of labor. In many times of discouragement I have felt that this work of installing expensive disposable products for unappreciative and demanding and ignorant strangers is almost entirely without honor.

This is not true, of course – there is some redemption in this work. Most obviously, I am able to make what is considered a “lower-middle-class” income that cares for my material needs and those of my wife. I have no debt, and am answerable to no one for my schedule. So I am free to spend much time away from my job, and can do work and play that are truly rewarding and important to me. My job allows me constant small opportunities to practice principles that I believe are important in every part of life. It is fulfilling, for example, to prepare and work carefully and in ways that reduce material waste, thus saving myself time and my customer money. It is good to work hard for people who understand and value hard work. And while interactions with customers are sometimes frustrating or even infuriating, it is always interesting and often enriching to meet and talk to and listen to people, and to see how they manage their homes and places.

So the way I make money is not perfect, or even ideal, but it adequately serves an important personal purpose and allows me a clean conscience. Using the same family of thought with which I have grappled with my job, what might I conclude about commercial caving?

Firstly, though I have no personal knowledge of the profits involved, it seems credible that a person might make an honest living as a professional cave guide. To do might seem, on the surface, very attractive to a person who enjoys spending time in caves. Besides the opportunity to make money at something one enjoys, there is also the opportunity to act as a sort of first defense against bad practice by educating new cave enthusiasts.

What though might be some negative aspects of commercial caving? From a conservation standpoint, the most obvious objection was unwittingly illuminated by Newstuff, who wrote,

“Now, before you start running [commercial trips] down, this is how a number of explorers got into caving, and it's never going to stop. I cannot picture them in anywhere that is not suitable for high-volume traffic, or that has anything more than a token "obstacle" to negotiate.”

Mr. Stuff’s observational impotence aside, making oneself financially motivated to introduce new explorers into places already suffering from overuse is morally suspect. It does not matter if the scene of the commercial trip is suitable for heavy use if the commercial trip inspires future haphazard adventures into caves that are not. And no matter the educational efforts of a guide, it is not possible to teach proper care of a delicate cave by leading customers on a tour of a trampled and featureless tube.

Another negative could be the effect of this sort of work on the professional caver himself. I can only say for certain what effect it would have on me, but it seems pretty consistent to say that commerce diminishes everything it touches. Just as I have found writing for money a bitter chore, I would soon find caving for money a bore and a blasphemy. Most of all, I could not trust my ability to instill a lasting and motivating affection in each of my customers, and so would have to deal with considerable guilt.

So while there is arguably room for commercial caving in certain settings, and while surely there are respectful and caring professional cavers, I can see no way that my conscience would allow me to make a living in such a way. And I cannot see any way for a professional caver to prevent more damage than he causes.

Offline droid

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2016, 06:54:15 am »
Where's me popcorn?
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Online mikem

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2016, 08:37:16 am »
Of course you could propose that human comsumption of resources (e.g.cutting down trees so there is more flooding, more chemicals on the land) & disposal of waste has caused more damage than visitors ever will...

Mike

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2016, 08:38:36 am »
Without reading that wall of tripe, I have things to do until this evening, I predict this:-

You're going to be wanting to ban commercial caving.

I also predict:-

You'll be told to go jump. Have a look into it, I suggest you'll find they do a *LOT* for education of people that have never been in a cave before. No, I'm not one.
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Online aricooperdavis

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2016, 09:01:29 am »
I'm not sure that I agree that it is morally suspect to introduce new explorers to vulnerable areas.

I don't like the gatekeeping attitude that caving is our special thing and we shouldn't let anyone else do it for fear of them damaging our caves, as this promotes stagnation of our sport/hobby whilst preventing others from experiencing the wonders that we can. Dare I mention privilege?

In fact, I believe that increasing understanding of cave conservation issues and promoting caves as a valuable resource in need of protection could further our conservation plight. I couldn't say whether commercial caving is a good way to go about this, but I suspect that a cave guide who is making their living from enjoying the beauty of caves is both going to have a significant incentive to promote conservation, and also the experience and ability to be able to do so for their customers. As somebody who heavily promotes caving at the University level I am well aware of the difficulties associated with introducing new people to the sport, but I suspect that being shown the conservation ropes by a professional with teaching experience is going to be more effective than almost any other introduction to the subject.

But I admit this is pretty much all conjecture.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2016, 11:01:26 am »
I did write a big old reply, but I'm pretty sure you're trolling...

But just in case you're not...

I've seen *far* bigger non-commercial groups than I have commercial ones. They have legal liabilities and restrictions that recreational cavers do not. If you want to go on volume, we the recreational caver are far more voluminous than commercial groups.

Your wittering sugegsts that people can only cave if they "find" the hobby by themselves, and only after after fully educating themselves on all aspects of cave conservation? That's certainly overwhelming impression that I get. If so, I suggest you go and live with your conscience by not leading paid-for trips, and let the people who actually do that get on with making a living, unimpaired by your inane, rambling replies that may fool someone new to the hobby that you are actually sane and knowledgeable.

As an aside - if you want to insult me, feel free to try harder, as 'Observational impotence' is, by any standards, a pitiful attempt at an insult.
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2016, 11:59:10 am »
Quote
I've seen *far* bigger non-commercial groups than I have commercial ones. They have legal liabilities and restrictions that recreational cavers do not. If you want to go on volume, we the recreational caver are far more voluminous than commercial groups.
 

You just maybe onto something...
Perhaps this is why I've written many pages of inane rambling that deal with the reduction of recreational caving, and have not given any attention to commercial caving until prodded. The most important point of my post though, the one made by yourself, is that some percentage of commercial cavers become recreational cavers.

It was not an insult, but an excellent, by my standard, description of one symptom of your condition. It was not an insult because it was not an empty jab, but has topical implications, which I'll try to explain once back from work.

Quote
as this promotes stagnation of our sport/hobby   

aricooperdavis - With respect, this in particular is the most overused and elementary and frankly shiftless approach to this argument. I am trying to show that the stagnation of caving, as it is, would be a net positive. It is your job to show me why it would not.

Of course you could propose that human comsumption of resources (e.g.cutting down trees so there is more flooding, more chemicals on the land) & disposal of waste has caused more damage than visitors ever will...

You could, (and if you are worth anything you would also think and care about the land surface for its own sake, not just as it relates to caves) but if you caved in the Appalachias you might be forgiven for having a different focus.

Offline Hughie

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2016, 12:14:15 pm »
Of course you could propose that human comsumption of resources (e.g.cutting down trees so there is more flooding, more chemicals on the land) & disposal of waste has caused more damage than visitors ever will...

Mike

Arguably any form of flooring, from whatever source, will consume resources. all of which are damaging. Depending on your perspective, of course.

The real answer is........a significant reduction in population...........

PS @Kenilworth - I write this as a caver, cave digger and a farmer, and find your comments somewhat condescending, and a little naive.

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2016, 12:22:07 pm »
Commercial caving will cause little to no (permanent) damage if caves are chosen sensibly, which they generally are.

I would like to see how your typical commercial group does any significant damage in, for example, Goatchurch... true, there is a lot of damage there but that is from the collective caving of a vast number of people. Per individual you will cause less damage taking a bunch of scouts in there, even if they leave a bit of litter and generally bash around the passages, than responsible cavers would in some very fragile caves (confession - I knocked a straw off the roof in Corky's Pot by accident).

A bit of litter is annoying and shouldn't happen, but it can be easily fixed. The first person into dry virgin cave on anything other than hard rock will do more irreparable damage than a bunch of scouts running round Goatchurch; leaving those footprints and disturbing pristine mud sediments that have lain unchanged for potentially thousands of years.

It is very important to separate total damage from damage per person; every caving trip causes some damage (although conservation efforts can account and reverse this so the overall effect of the trip is positive). I suspect that a caver in new cave, on average, unavoidably does more damage per person than they would elsewhere (obviously caves vary in their fragility). But what's the point of a cave if no-one gets to see it? All that matters is that we do as little damage as possible so that we share caving with others and with the future.

At the end of the day, digging is probably by far the most 'destructive' act we do in caving; when I took some climbers down a cave they were a bit shocked at first when they got to a heavily dug section complete with dry stone walling - in climbing, outside of removing loose rock, altering the rock is blasphemy! But they understood the need - there wouldn't be much cave in the Mendips if it wasn't for the valiant endeavours of diggers...

Rather than vague anti-science notions, each act should be judged on its merits. The explorer who carefully bolts up a pristine aven in search of a way on and never returns, the digger who destroys flowstone that is blocking the way on, the surveyor who as agreed carefully crosses conservation tape to complete an survey. All these things have clear benefits that can outweigh damage. The caver crossing the conservation tape to get a better photo, the careless caver destroying ceiling formations, the mud thrower... all these things are probably not OK. The only true judge is consensus.

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2016, 01:32:31 pm »
Quote
as this promotes stagnation of our sport/hobby

aricooperdavis - With respect, this in particular is the most overused and elementary and frankly shiftless approach to this argument. I am trying to show that the stagnation of caving, as it is, would be a net positive. It is your job to show me why it would not.

Now that is, indeed, a more interesting question. What aspect are you balancing when you say net positive? Financially, no, stagnation of caving would not be net positive (ask any cave guide or cave shop). Overall human happiness levels, no, stagnation of caving would not be net positive (although it is a perverse type of happiness!). Scientific potential, no, stagnation of caving would not be net positive (as we wouldn't get interested and intelligent people exploring them and asking questions). Now it's your turn, by what measure is the stagnation of caving a net positive thing?

Offline badger

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2016, 08:16:32 pm »
I am slightly bemused by Kenilworth seemingly constant mails re caving/conservation. It almost seems he wants to ban caving to everyone but a select few. when one then say the only true conservation is not to cave at all, he goes on the attack saying we have misunderstood, and what an idiotic suggestion. so assume he then wants people to go caving, and be educated as best as one can be on conservation,  :shrug: :shrug:
as for professional cavers taking commercial trips, I doubt many of them make a huge amount of money, from the ones that I know all seem to have another form of income to back up what they earn from trips. Show caves also seem to struggle, many of them having to supplement revenue by other attractions.
with the way man is destroying earths resources and climate change I think caves will have the last laugh as there will be no one caving as we wont excist.
in the meantime I will, when I take scouts and or adults on trips I will bang on to them about cave conservation. hoping  that a small % will go on to be cavers themselves and pass on the conservation message. what happens in the usa ( if that is where Kenilworth lives) things may be different, I don't know as not caved there.


Offline PeteHall

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2016, 09:51:30 pm »
Just as I have found writing for money a bitter chore,
I would soon find caving for money a bore

It's almost poetic  :thumbsup:
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Offline NewStuff

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2016, 10:37:58 pm »
I am slightly bemused by Kenilworth seemingly constant mails re caving/conservation. It almost seems he wants to ban caving to everyone but a select few.

If you go back to his early posts, that's exactly what he wants. He denies it, now that he's seen we won't have any truck with it, but read up and make your own mind up. His original musing were along the lines of disbanding the BCA (And the US equivalent) and having a form of committee decide who could and couldn't cave. Needless to say, he got told to go forth and fornicate.
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2016, 11:19:16 pm »
I am slightly bemused by Kenilworth seemingly constant mails re caving/conservation. It almost seems he wants to ban caving to everyone but a select few.

If you go back to his early posts, that's exactly what he wants. He denies it, now that he's seen we won't have any truck with it, but read up and make your own mind up. His original musing were along the lines of disbanding the BCA (And the US equivalent) and having a form of committee decide who could and couldn't cave. Needless to say, he got told to go forth and fornicate.

I remain dedicated to the idea that caves would be better off, and cavers no worse off, without NSS. I remain dedicated to the idea that caving should not be advertised. I remain dedicated to a search for ways to reduce cave traffic. I have decided that I should no longer comment on BCA specifically, since I don't know enough about it. I have never proposed any sort of committee or governing body of any sort, and never will. This is exactly what I'm arguing against and has been from the beginning of my efforts to write about caver culture and cave conservation. I have suggested that individuals with enough initiative to take action would do well to put gates on a few select and highly delicate caves, but that they do so as individuals working with legal owners, not as a conservancy or club. If you need to go back, for confirmation, and read all 779,427 pages of my stumbling about the subject, please do.

Quote
as this promotes stagnation of our sport/hobby

aricooperdavis - With respect, this in particular is the most overused and elementary and frankly shiftless approach to this argument. I am trying to show that the stagnation of caving, as it is, would be a net positive. It is your job to show me why it would not.

Now that is, indeed, a more interesting question. What aspect are you balancing when you say net positive? Financially, no, stagnation of caving would not be net positive (ask any cave guide or cave shop). Overall human happiness levels, no, stagnation of caving would not be net positive (although it is a perverse type of happiness!). Scientific potential, no, stagnation of caving would not be net positive (as we wouldn't get interested and intelligent people exploring them and asking questions). Now it's your turn, by what measure is the stagnation of caving a net positive thing?

Thank you for a bit of real discourse! I have answers in mind, but I need a while to smooth them out.

Quote
Arguably any form of flooring, from whatever source, will consume resources. all of which are damaging. Depending on your perspective, of course.

The real answer is........a significant reduction in population...........

PS @Kenilworth - I write this as a caver, cave digger and a farmer, and find your comments somewhat condescending, and a little naive.

Hughie - Yes, flooring is a wasteful and damaging product. It is not without some discomfort that I work with such materials, and I do not know if my doing so anyway is a necessary sacrifice or a despicable complicity...

If your comment about population reduction is intended as a comment about global human population and the depletion of "resources", would it not follow that the same would apply to caver population and the much more fragile and irreparable "cave resources"?

I am sorry if I seem condescending. I am certain that I am naïve. I am doing my best to learn, and any knowledge is always surrounded by ignorance.

These are things that I care about, as a caver, cave digger, gardener, and student of farming, forestry and community. I am discouraged that very few people seem mentally prepared to even begin a discussion about making improvements, and revolt at any suggestion that the way things are done might not be the way they ought to be done. And this discouragement leads too often to hasty words, for which I should more often apologize.

Offline Madness

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2016, 12:22:09 am »
Kenilworth - If you truly believe that caver numbers should be reduced to protect caves, please feel free to set us an example and give up caving yourself. I hear knitting (using natural unbleached r dyed wool) is low impact on the natural environment. Perhaps you could take that up instead. ;)

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2016, 12:47:47 am »
Kenilworth - If you truly believe that caver numbers should be reduced to protect caves, please feel free to set us an example and give up caving yourself. I hear knitting (using natural unbleached r dyed wool) is low impact on the natural environment. Perhaps you could take that up instead. ;)

Quote
  I am discouraged that very few people seem mentally prepared to even begin a discussion about making improvements, and revolt at any suggestion that the way things are done might not be the way they ought to be done.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2016, 09:44:48 am »
If you go back to his early posts, that's exactly what he wants. He denies it, now that he's seen we won't have any truck with it, but read up and make your own mind up. His original musing were along the lines of disbanding the BCA (And the US equivalent) and having a form of committee decide who could and couldn't cave. Needless to say, he got told to go forth and fornicate.

I remain dedicated to the idea that caves would be better off, and cavers no worse off, without NSS. I remain dedicated to the idea that caving should not be advertised. I remain dedicated to a search for ways to reduce cave traffic. I have decided that I should no longer comment on BCA specifically, since I don't know enough about it. I have never proposed any sort of committee or governing body of any sort, and never will. This is exactly what I'm arguing against and has been from the beginning of my efforts to write about caver culture and cave conservation. I have suggested that individuals with enough initiative to take action would do well to put gates on a few select and highly delicate caves, but that they do so as individuals working with legal owners, not as a conservancy or club. If you need to go back, for confirmation, and read all 779,427 pages of my stumbling about the subject, please do.

I can't be bothered to go back and find it, but when questioned on who or what would limit caver numbers after disbanding the BCA and NSS, you were mumbling about a team, committee, or other such organisation. You can't have both (and won't have either, in the hard light of day).
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Offline crickleymal

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2016, 10:02:14 am »


Quote
  I am discouraged that very few people seem mentally prepared to even begin a discussion about making improvements, and revolt at any suggestion that the way things are done might not be the way they ought to be done.
[/quote]
You obviously missed the open access discussions. Why are you over here lecturing us about cave conservation?
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Offline NewStuff

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2016, 10:16:37 am »
You obviously missed the open access discussions. Why are you over here lecturing us about cave conservation?

No-one knows. It's incredibly hard to get anything resembling logic out of him/her/it. We get they want to disband the NSS (And BCA), but other than "it's baaaddddd" type of bawwing about advertising and people (Shock! Horror!) actually going caving, we've yet to get a coherent answer.

I *think* he/she/it wants to leave all caves pristine and stop all caving, bar a select few that cave, take pictures and the rest of us have to be content with pictures. I could be wrong though, but he's been told, repeatedly, to go forth and fornicate. They've yet to show the data or assumptions they are working on that shows an immediate stop to almost all caving will do, apart from deprive many people of a hobby and torpedo a number of business in both countries.
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Offline David Rose

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2016, 11:32:40 am »
Many active cavers I know have expressed sadness that our numbers seem to be declining, and our average age increasing. I remember those university fresher weekends of the 70s and 80s when the bigger clubs would hire coaches to take new members to the Dales and elsewhere, so great was the demand, and there would be long waits for permits to some of the more popular, challenging trips. Now I sometimes wonder whether little by little, the sport is dying off. Maybe in 200 or 2000 years a new generation of explorers will rediscover the classic pots, with their still-shiny P-bolts  the only sign that humans had passed this way previously.

I think it is fair to say that Kenilworth, with his apparent wish to hasten caving's extinction, probably does not command majority support on this forum. No doubt his next proposals ought to be to abolish the BMC and similar institutions, close the climbing huts and ban mountain guiding. After all, what dedicated conservationist would wish to see human beings defile places such as the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc?

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2016, 12:04:32 pm »
Quote
No doubt his next proposals ought to be to abolish the BMC and similar institutions, close the climbing huts and ban mountain guiding. After all, what dedicated conservationist would wish to see human beings defile places such as the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc? 

No, I am most interested in caves because I see in them a globally unique opportunity. They are easily accessible to all, but in some places completely untouched.

So caves are time travel.

I asked earlier whether or not we would prefer to have grown up differently as cultures in our lands. The "caving community" demonstrates that, no, they would like to bring the industrial/military/commercial storm of the surface, cultivated over thousands of years, into every newfound cave. What a leap!

 


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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2016, 12:26:14 pm »
I asked earlier whether or not we would prefer to have grown up differently as cultures in our lands. The "caving community" demonstrates that, no, they would like to bring the industrial/military/commercial storm of the surface, cultivated over thousands of years, into every newfound cave. What a leap!

Stop using vague assertions and bland statements. What do you mean? Give a specific example of how the behaviour of cavers acting within the UK-agreed consensus of responsible caving differs from what you would believe. Justify your statement. Explain how it relates to the 'industrial/military/commercial storm'. It would probably help to explain whatever the 'industrial/military/commercial' storm is.

You also haven't responded to my point that the 'virgin cave' you are so found of is precisely where the most irreparable damage can occur, and in most cases will occur even for the most careful explorer. I reiterate that some damage can be justified; some cannot.

Offline badger

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2016, 01:41:01 pm »
this thread initially asked the question of people making a living of caving.
which those of in the uk I believe do not make a huge amount of money, and the ones I know all have to supplement there professional caving with earning money doing other work. Show caves too which I would say comes under making money from caves and caving also seem to have to supplement entrance fees with other attractions.
Don't know about how the figures stack up elsewhere in the world.
as for Kenilworth's post they ramble so much it really is hard to actually fully understand what his real beef with the world of caving is. If you come out with the obvious which is the only true conservation of caves, or deep sea/mountains/space is for us humans not to go there in the first place. You get shot down as misunderstanding what has been written,  :shrug:
I have been very lucky within my caving to have been one of a few people to visit certain passages within cave systems. some there is no reason other than difficulty of getting to them would not have any issues with increased traffic, others if it received 20 cavers the passage would be damaged irreversibly.
how long would it take somewhere like goatchurch to recover if caving was banned. how long would it take

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2016, 02:27:49 pm »
To Kenilworth,

I'm have a habit of being blunt. I certainly don't have your degree of elocution and I don't know how much say you have of what goes on in the caving community in your own country but as far as in goes in ours,

Please feel free to Fuck Off and mind your own business.

Offline JasonC

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Re: Commercial caving
« Reply #24 on: December 29, 2016, 05:09:22 pm »
To Kenilworth,
......
Please feel free to Fuck Off and mind your own business.
;D don't beat about the bush, say what you mean, man !
If you think Kenilworth is trolling, then ignore him, don't feed him...

To Kenilworth, I say:
1. Obviously, if no-one went caving, then caves would be 100% conserved.  The more visitors a cave has, the less it will be conserved.  Indisputable.
2. But there will always be a desire (in some) to appreciate the natural wonders of the world.  In our case, there will always be folk (a few) who want to explore caves.
3. That being so, is it better that they discover and blunder into caves all by themselves, or under the guidance of someone more experienced, whether that's a professional guide, or a reputable club.  I would say the latter - there's a greater chance that the newcomer will get good advice this way, will take more care and better appreciate the damage he could inadvertently cause.
4.  That said, point 1 still stands.  There is a good argument against aggressively 'marketing' caving (eg, trying to persuade people to take it up rather than climbing, skiing or extreme ironing say) - but then I'm not aware that anyone has ever done so.  The nature of caving is in itself enough to put off most people.

So, yes, 'commercial' caving is fine as long as conducted responsibly, and all the people I know who make a little money out of cave guiding are very responsible.
If you don't want to do it, fine, but your conscience isn't necessarily a guide to judge others' activities.