Environmental Ethics of Rock Climbers in the Adirondacks


  • Tom Stuessy Green Mountain College
  • James Harding Green Mountain College
  • Jane Anderson Outward Bound


Anthropocentrism, biocentrism, ecocentrism, environmental ethics & rock climbing


Environmental ethics in outdoor recreation has only relatively recentlyreceived attention from the research community. An empiricaltreatment of this shifting and multi-dimensional construct has provedchallenging. This study attempted to capture the subtle and divergentqualities of environmental ethics by focusing on a range of foundationalaspects evident in the field, such as degrees of nonanthropocentricism,zoocentrism versus ecocentrism, and religiouslybased obligations towards nature. A sample of rock climbers (N=70)in the Adirondacks State Park, New York provided the context inwhich to understand environmental ethics for this study. Particular attentionwas paid to synthetic versus natural methods of introductionto the sport of rock climbing and different approaches to participation.An exploratory factor analysis of the data allowed for a newconfiguration of environmental ethics to emerge and for distinctionsin ethics across types of climbers to be considered. This ethic gainsstrength from a form of environmental pragmatism that seeks to guideactions through a range of ethical theories and commitments. Finally,management implications based on these different configurations ofenvironmental ethics and differences in ethics based on climbingtypes are explored.



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