Monday, February 24, 2014

The Effect of the Commercialization of Mountaineering on Socioeconomic Shifts

Following up on our conversation in class about how the region around Mount Everest is changing due to the tourism generated by mountaineering and the commercialization of mountaineering, it was really interesting to read about Jamling Tenzing Norgay’s opinion of how the socioeconomic situation has changed in Nepal. On page 74, according to Norgay, “in [his] father’s day all the loads were carried by Sherpas (and a handful of yaks), but within a generation [his] ethnic group has climbed a whole rung higher on the socioeconomic ladder.” In today’s Nepal, as seen in all of the Himalayan mountaineering texts we have read, porters carry most of the loads while the Sherpas carry some of the loads and are instead mostly focused on the actual mountaineering. In this way, tourism and the commercialization of mountaineering have drastically changed Nepalese society because they caused the Sherpa class to move up in society and the lower classes to fill their previously occupied niche. Norgay doesn’t expound to a great deal on these changes, but it would be really interesting to learn more about the effects of the shift in the lower economic classes as they would probably have felt the brunt of the shift. Some of the lower classes, such as the porters, would have moved up in society from their previous societal roles, which would only have benefitted the entire economy of Nepal as there would have been greater influxes of wealth at all socioeconomic levels. However, considering the magnitude of the shift, it is also possible that the shift may have created gaps in the Nepalese economy that no classes wanted to fill because they were not as lucrative as the jobs created by tourism and the commercialization of mountaineering. Consequently, although it is impossible to entirely predict how a change such as tourism will affect the society and economy of a country, the various possibilities of the impacts of bringing in a tourist industry as aggressive as commercial mountaineering should be taken very seriously as these industries could irreversibly change a country and its culture and, possibly, for the worst.

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