Climbers’ Environmental Impact with Author J.B. MacKinnon (Ep. 21)

Independent Journalist and Author J.B. MacKinnon on climbing, consumer culture, and environmental impacts
Independent Journalist and Author J.B. MacKinnon.

What’s the biggest environmental impact we have as climbers? It’s easy to be distracted by the obvious stuff: chalk marks, cat holes, bolts. But, as journalist J.B. MacKinnon points out, the reality is much more complicated.

Longtime climber J.B. Mackinnon is a contributor to The New Yorker on ecology and consumer issues. He has written several award-winning nonfiction books including The 100 Mile Diet and The Once and Future World, and he is now working on a book on consumerism in the outdoor industry. In this conversation, we talk about the places climbing has the greatest environmental impact, how this has changed over the decades, and how we as a community can reduce our footprint.

(MacKinnon’s website and work)


  • MacKinnon’s free soloing experience (1:40)
  • What are the biggest environmental issues within climbing culture? (6:25)
  • What are the underlying costs of consumer culture? (8:45)
  • How is the outdoor industry different from other consumer industries? (10:06)
  • What climbing equipment is most problematically produced and marketed? (14:28)
  • On the importance of community-wide conversation (18:50)
  • How do we decide to leave certain cliffs as ecosystems? (21:25)
  • How do we prioritize climbing locally? (23:30)
  • How do we get brands to do a better job? (28:20)

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