NGOs and Activists Tackle Rubbish on Mt. Everest

By Amadou M. Cissé
Mt. Everest or Sagarmatha is “so high that no bird can fly [above it]” as the saying goes in Nepal.  It takes a great amount of training and finances to make it to the peak of the highest mountain in the world.  During a recent course in ethics, we Professor Lele discussed the famous HBR case study parable of the sadhu. In it, the author discussed the months he spent hiking through Nepal where he encountered an Indian holy man, or sadhu. The sadhu was left in poor health conditions to fend for himself while the group continued their way up the slope. What happened to the sadhu? Nobody knows, but what has happened to Sagarmatha is very clear or I should say very dirty.

Sagarmatha is prized for its beauty but stories about the litter problem are all too common. In 2007 there were 110, 000 pounds of garbage on Sagarmatha. The good news is that since 2000, there have been several initiatives attempting to restore the mountain while educating locals as well as tourists.

One Japanese mountaineer decided to take matters in to his own hands.  In his fifth trip since he began his clean-up campaign in 2000, Ken Noguchi, brought down 1,100 pounds of garbage from Sagarmatha. During these five trips as part his campaign to clean up the world’s highest mountain, Noguchi has collected an estimated 18,900 pounds of rubbish from both sides of the mountain – the northern side in China and southern side in Nepal.

Clean Himalaya, which was initiated in 2000, has for passionate mission to respond to the desecration of the beauty and holiness of this region. It is a devotional response by Westerners and Indians alike who have been deeply touched by the sanctity of the Ganges River and Himalayas.

Saving Mount Everest was a project initiated in 2010 and has for objective to conserve and manage the rich biological diversity of Nepal’s Sagarmatha/Everest National Park. The emphasis is on solid waste management and on supporting and strengthening local communities as the caretakers of biodiversity conservation.

Nepal and India are countries in which rural communities lack the financial resources to tackle such a huge problem by themselves.  However, by engaging and encouraging participation from those communities, the litter issues can be resolved using an integrated natural resources management approach.  In the words of Noguchi “An alpinist goes into dangerous conditions. But the most important thing is to never give up. It’s the same with environmental problems. You can’t do it all by yourself, but if you get a group of people together, anything is possible”.

Such great initiatives are reminders that as we all strive to achieve what very few have accomplished, such as climbing Sagarmatha, we should be mindful of the impacts of our actions. We all have the moral responsibility for creating value not only in our lives but also in the lives of others.  So let’s be ethical leaders and inspire others to do great things together.

[Image credit: féileacán, Flickr]

The posts on this page are contributed by students from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business in conjunction with the newly launched Center for Social Value Creation. The center's mission is to develop leaders with a deep sense of individual responsibility and the knowledge to use business as a vehicle for social change. These posts are a way to continue the dialogue outside of the classroom and share the viewpoints of Smith students on the challenges and opportunities of triple bottom line thinking.