My buddy Joseph Day, from Second Mesa, Arizona and a longtime Zephyr supporter, likes to torture me from time to time. Last night, Tonya and I were having a quiet evening when an email popped up from Joe. “Have you seen this?” Joe asked.
It was a YouTube video from the latest in a long line of shameless “social media exploiters,” one of these young, stylishly attired “adventurers” who has found a way to make a living by posting YouTube videos of his favorite places in the American West. He’s the standard, run-of-the-mill enviropreneur, who wraps himself in Nature and his love for the land, and all its forest creatures, as long as he can put his face in front of his devoted viewers and make a buck as well.
His latest adventure starts before dawn as he makes his way to Canyonlands National Park and sunrise at Mesa Arch. When he arrives, as expected, the parking lot and the arch are overrun with “hoards” of tourists, as he describes them. He feigns indignation, leaves early, and returns to his SUV.
You’d think maybe he’d just say, “Okay…I don’t want to be a part of this zoo, much less contribute to it,” and return to Moab to hang out with his ilk of choice. at whatever place is the latest cool venue in Moab to hang.
But nope. Instead, our host decides to take his followers to other remote, quieter, less crowded places. At press time, this idiot had accumulated almost 60,000 views. He’d received over 1,300 thumbs UP and 40 thumbs DOWN. Tonya and I posted a comment on his page. Out of hundreds we were the ONLY ones we could find who expressed disagreement. We wrote:
So, let me get this straight. You post a video that graphically shows how badly sensitive places like Mesa Arch are being ruined by “hoards” of people. You even admit that, “This is the reality behind Instagram.”
Then, incredibly, you lead your legions of viewers to other less traveled areas that haven’t been ruined…yet. Do you realize that this is exactly the way other parts of the once quiet rural West are being destroyed? Are you aware of Horseshoe Bend, which was practically unknown until five years ago? Now visitation is expected to exceed TWO MILLION in 2020. Or areas around Moab? Or just about any place in the American West?
You even provide GPS coordinates and you have a sponsor, an outdoor equipment company? You’re leading unknowledgeable, uninformed, first time tourists to archaeological sites and even to the tops of very remote and (so far) unscathed, mountains.
Have you no shame whatsoever? Is it ego and money that allows somebody like you to exploit the last remaining remnants of the West, or are you just utterly clueless?
Perhaps more stunning and depressing than the video itself were the comments themselves. I found one person who noted the hypocrisy in it all, but 99% of the viewers were delighted to learn about these new secret locations that they could visit in the future. One man even wrote, “I love the (he names the location in his comment) and go there a lot. But I never talk to anybody about them at all.” He failed to grasp that he just left his comment on a public page that had been viewed 56,000 times in five days.
Jim Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.
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