|Earth art or vandalism?|
"Rock-stacking denies people the experience of wildness" states the title of an article on the Blue Planet Society website. In addition to taking away a hiker's chance to experience what the world looks like without human intervention, there are also environmental concerns about what I'm calling "earth art." Water flow and habitat are changed by rock stacking, and if you can imagine, some earth art has even been created on archaeological sites, where not only are stacks added to the landscape but also those stone stacks are created using stone that may be significant to the archaeology of the area. In a New Yorker article a Blue Planet Society spokesperson said, “Rock stacking is a way of quickly making your mark and having an image of it. People are posting pictures of them on Instagram, saying, ‘I’ve been here and I made this.’”
The New Yorker article goes on to say that stone stacking is a hot potato of discussion online. I can see that; creative activities are very fulfilling, and stacking rocks checks not only the "creative" box but also the "self-acknowledging." Online social sites have driven this phenomenon recently, even though stacking stones has been around for a long time as a spiritual action, a travel marker or ownership marker. “Social media has kind of popularized rock stacking as a meditative activity, and you used to have a handful of people doing it, but it has really escalated over the past few years on public lands,” Wesley Trimble, the program-outreach and communications manager for the American Hiking Society, said in the New Yorker article.
|Oh, the irony of this message painted on a rock in a state park!|
|Primitive, beautiful child's art--but do it at home!|
|Driftwood on a Rathbun Lake beach|
Do we really need as guests to these parks to be adding to the Antropocene, adding yet another layer of human engineering to the land, even if creative and artful? I prefer photography or the other, older arts of painting or sketching. In an article the other day, I quoted British Romantic poet William Wordsworth, who said, "The world is too much with us." His sentiment also applies here. The National Park Service has recently labeled rock stacking as "rock graffiti" and "vandalism." The online article "The New Graffiti: National Parks Fight Stone Stackers" does a good job of explaining the why and how of leaving stones unturned. Volunteers, cited in the earlier mentioned New Yorker article, have been organized to remove stone stacks, a group in Acadia National park recently leveling nearly 3,500 rock stacks. The article "Rock Cairns," posted by the National Park Service, also is interesting as it details the history and function of rock cairns (or stacked stones) in the national parks and trails.
When you enter the wilderness, though--even the "kinda wilderness" of many city, county, and state parks--consider yourself a guest. Just as you wouldn't mark up the walls of a friend's house if you were invited over or throw your trash on the floor, in that same way you shouldn't change the natural beauty of any parkland. This is something you can easily do . . . just by not doing, just by leaving behind no trace of your ever having been there. This is the highest art of camping, taking away good memories (and maybe some photos), leaving nothing behind.