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ETHICS


Where’s the Fire? How to balance outdoor ethics with outdoor realities.


THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES of Leave No Trace (on right) are intention- ally open-ended—some might say vague—which makes them work well in settings such as city parks, Scout camps, national forests, and wilderness areas. Literal-minded Scouts, though, may have trouble applying the prin- ciples in situations where the right action to take isn’t always clear. An example follows.


The Dilemma Many teenagers think of spring break as a time to head to the nearest beach or theme park. Not the members of


Troop 412. Each March they travel to the Ouachita Mountains near the Oklahoma-Arkansas border for five days of backpacking. During most years, the Scouts enjoy seasonably warm weather. But this year is differ- ent. The nights are cold, the trails are a muddy mess, and the Scouts only packed shorts and T-shirts. Tuesday’s hike takes the group


along—and occasionally across—the Kiamichi River. In keeping with Leave No Trace principles, the Scouts stay on the established trail, even though it’s little more than thick, clinging, ankle-deep mud. To top things off,


rain starts falling in late afternoon. As the sun sets, they drag themselves to a campsite, tired, hungry, and soaked to the skin.


As most of the Scouts collapse onto their packs, the patrol leaders’ council huddles to discuss plans for setting up camp. Senior Patrol Leader Jon Albertson suggests pitching tents and getting the camp stoves going for dinner, but Nate Blackledge, patrol leader of the Rattlesnakes, disagrees. He has already started building a giant campfire so all the Scouts can warm up and get their boots and clothes dry. Jon shakes his head, pointing out


that Leave No Trace recommends that campfires—if they’re built at all—be small. He says to Nate, “Look, dude, you didn’t want to stay on the trail this morning. You threw your orange peel on the ground after lunch. What part of ‘Leave No Trace’ don’t you understand?” “The part that says we’re supposed


to freeze to death, I guess,” Nate snaps. What should the PLC decide to do?


For Discussion To help Scouts or Venturers explore this dilemma, discuss these questions together: Is Jon correctly interpreting the fifth principle of Leave No Trace, which says to “minimize campfire impacts”? If not, how is he wrong?


Does Nate have a valid argument about the need to build a big campfire? Why or why not?


FOR A LEADER’S GUIDE to Leave No Trace, visit scoutingmagazine. org/LNT.


18 S COUTING ¿ MAY•JUNE 2012


MIKE BYERS


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