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China Will Start Publicly Shaming Tourists Who Graffiti Mount Everest

Leave nothing but footprints

(Luca Galuzzi, via Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

While scaling Mount Everest has long been a goal for extreme climbers and skilled mountaineers, even the Chinese Everest Base Camp at around 17,000 feet is a popular destination for adventurers. Indeed, the base camp draws more than 40,000 visitors a year, according to The Telegraph.

While not every tourist wants to make their mark on the mountain, Chinese officials have gotten fed up with constantly having to clean graffiti left behind by tourists, the Associated Press reports. Now, China is setting out to shame these would-be graffiti writers by publicly blacklisting anyone who leaves their scrawl on any unsanctioned surfaces on the mountain.

Workers have had to scrub all sorts of messages, signatures, and scribbles off of granite monuments and informational signs at the base camp, according to the Chinese state-run media outlet The Paper, as the BBC reports.

In some instances, signs were so covered in markings that they were no longer legible. But while most of the messages are along the lines of “I was here” in many different languages, local workers have gotten sick of the cycle of cleaning graffiti over and over again, the BBC reports. In order to discourage future wannabe graffiti artists, Chinese officials will now publicly list anyone caught leaving their tag in order to publicly shame them.

"Starting this year, we will set up a blacklist system to punish badly-behaved tourists, such as those who leave graffiti,” Gu Chunlei, deputy head of the tourism bureau that runs the Mount Everest base camp, tells the BBC. “The blacklist will be made public through media outlets."

While public shame may be a powerful motivator for some people, Chinese officials are realistic. Knowing that some people will try to get away with leaving a mark on Mount Everest, Gu says that they will set up designated walls for visitors to draw on to their hearts content, Erik Shilling writes for Atlas Obscura.

“It’s a way of getting travelers to change their habits without even knowing it,” Gu tells the AP.

Similar boards are set up along the Great Wall of China in order to deter people from drawing on the historic monument.

While annoying, graffiti is one of the more innocuous things that visitors frequently leave behind. And as the base camp becomes a more popular tourist destination outside of hardcore adventure-seekers, people have started leaving behind more than footprints, Shilling writes.

From garbage to human feces, today parts of the world’s tallest peak are getting dirtier all the time. But if the signs and structures are a little cleaner and free of graffiti, maybe visitors will think twice about defacing the nature surrounding them. 

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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