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International Mountain Day

Carl Wright | Mackenzie Bradbury

December 11th, 2018

On this day, we celebrate all the mountains have to offer; physically and mentally.


They define the natural borders of various countries. In some cultures, they are sacred, revered and worshipped. Artists, poets, and photographers are drawn to them and recapture their splendor in the form of various writing’s, painting’s, and photograph’s. Also, some modern world-weary mortals who can find the time to escape from their 9 to 5 existence are rewarded with restoration and rejuvenation of the soul with a visit to these unique places. Over the past few decades, they have inspired a long history of adventurers who carry with them the drive to conquer their celestial summits. Carrying flags of the nations of the world, sometimes backed with corporate sponsors, people have pushed their limits of endurance to become the first or the fastest to the top. People will risk their own lives to climb them. These unique places can be unpredictable and unforgiving. They also can be enchanting and renewing. These are the mountains of the world.

Mountains are described as masses of earth that rise with steep, sloping sides and sharp or rounded edges. The high point is called a peak or summit. Most geologists will define it a bit differently, by describing it as a land mass that rises as little as 1000 feet (300 meters) or more above the surrounding area. A mountain range is a series or chain of mountains that are close together. Of the 148,940,000 square kilometers of land mass area that makes up our planet earth, approximately 22% would be described as mountainous. Thirteen percent of the global population (or 915 million people) are said to live in the mountains.

The importance of our mountains cannot be underestimated. UNESCO describes mountains as "The water towers of the world." All the major rivers of the world have their headwaters in the mountains. These rivers provide half of the world's population with fresh water for drinking, domestic use, irrigation, industry, and hydropower. Hydroelectric power, the majority which is sourced out of the mountains provide 20% of all the electricity that is produced worldwide. Hydroelectric power is both clean energy and renewable.

Our mountains are fragile eco-systems, and our human activities can easily tip that delicate balance. Deforestation of high-altitude woodlands, mining, unsustainable agriculture and increasing urban sprawl are taking their toll on mountain watersheds. What happens in the upper watersheds has a significant impact on the people and ecosystems downstream. With the earth's natural resources dwindling, our mountains are under threat.

The very first International Mountain Day was celebrated in 2003, following the International Year of the Mountains in 2002. Ever since then, December 11th of every year is dedicated by the United Nations to honor and raise awareness for our glorious mountains. The purpose of this day is to increase conservation and sustainable efforts for our mountains, to preserve the communities nearby, and to protect the environments in which the mountains serve. For this to be possible, we need to understand the vital role mountains play in sustaining our needs, as well as how our everyday decisions can affect the state of these ever so enchanting mountains.

Mountains allow us to feel strong, but they cannot be so strong themselves when affected by climate change at rates unimaginable. Our small everyday actions, when multiplied by billions, result in climate change at a rapid pace. These remarkable land masses are just one of the many aspects of Earth that face an array of issues by means of climate change. Their glaciers are melting at exceeding rates. This has drastic, adverse effects on the freshwater cycle and supply. As a result millions suffer, especially those in nearby communities. And the extreme weather patterns only continue to increase worldwide. Mountains are also essential for food security, and the water they provide plays a vital role in agriculture. With our mountains decreasing so vastly, people are suffering. Mountains support billions of people living downstream, most unknowing. This day is dedicated to this cause so that we can continue to conversate about these issues. We can learn how our mountains are under pressure, and the ways that we can protect them.

A teacher of mine once said to me, “The mountains are so humbling.” I was genuinely unsure of what he meant until I got to experience them for myself. I remember the first time I caught a glimpse of the jaw-dropping site. I had never seen anything like it before. I thought my teacher was crazy believing I could climb to the top of it. But I did, and then I did it again several times following. It is an entirely different view of the world in the mountains. The long, and challenging journey to the top of a summit can teach us many things – not quite like other experiences can. Through summiting mountains, I endured on an experience of self-discovery. Learning who I am, pushing my limits, and achieving what I thought was so impossible. Standing on top of a mountain is like nothing else. All worries fade away, and nothing matters except for that very moment. It is from there we see just how big our world is and grasp the tip of our place in it. Through this soulful experience with nature, we can truly foster a connection so deep, that preserving our world and resources becomes of the utmost importance. I encourage everyone to dive into the transforming experience nature provides, in order to develop a passion for sustainability and protecting our Earth.

The theme for 2018's International Day is Mountains Matter! This topic has been created for us to share our experiences with the Mountains, in hopes to raise awareness of threating issues, and how we can work together to solve them. Let us grasp the meaning of our mountains- and carry those perceptions with us through life. Share your experience online with the hashtag #MountainsMatter. Happy International Mountain Day!

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