Ethics Dunces: National Park Visitors


The major reasons for the increase in National Park visitors breaking rules by getting too close to the wildlife and disturbing the integrity of the parks in other ways appear to be…selfies, selfies, selfies, and too many morons.

I may be over-simplifying, but not much. From a CBS report:

Record visitor numbers at the nation’s first national park have transformed its annual summer rush into a sometimes dangerous frenzy, with selfie-taking tourists routinely breaking park rules and getting too close to Yellowstone’s storied elk herds, grizzly bears, wolves and bison.

Law enforcement records obtained by The Associated Press suggest such problems are on the rise at the park, offering a stark illustration of the pressures facing some of America’s most treasured lands as the National Park Service marks its 100th anniversary.From Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains to the Grand Canyon of Arizona, major parks are grappling with illegal camping, vandalism, theft of resources, wildlife harassment and other visitor misbehavior, according to the records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

I think my assessment is fair, especially since morons and selfies go together, as the song says, like a horse and carriage. In Florida, for example, officials are seeking an Orlando woman seen on a social media video holding a sea turtle and shining a light on others. Shining lights at sea turtle hatchlings can cause them to fatally mistake the light for the moon, which guides them to the ocean.

The blonde woman  seen in the video picking up one of the hatchlings, posing with it momentarily and putting it back down in the sand has been identified as one Stephanie Marie Rushing, 24, Moron. Handling sea turtles is a violation of federal law, so Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators say they would like to ask her “if she knew what she did was possibly illegal.” Boy, they must really think she’s a moron! I can’t wait to find out if she says “yes.” Interfering with sea turtles is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

I don’t know how we should deal with this problem. Most of the abuse of wildlife takes place far away from officials, and the only episodes we learn about are when photos and videos surface on the web. Ban selfies? Ban cell phones? Ban morons? Find ways to stop raising narcissists and nature-lovers with no respect or regard for nature? Stop allowing people into the National Parks? I’m at a loss.

20 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: National Park Visitors

  1. Mixed feelings here, as a photographer but a non-moron. I don’t see the point of going someplace to view elk, bison, et al in the wild if I’m not going to get good shots. Thankfully technology is now at the point where I can be 1000 feet away from you and shoot a portrait-level shot. I don’t need to get anywhere near the animals to shoot them and they probably don’t even know I’m there, which is just as well. Problem solved.

    P.S. I will never grasp the idea of constant selfies. I don’t consider myself all that photogenic (average looking at my slimmest) and I don’t see the point of spoiling a perfectly good picture by injecting myself into it. My uncle and aunt are the worst, globe-trotting and taking NOTHING but pictures of themselves together in front of this or that landmark. Narcissistic idiots.

    P.P.S. May I add a note about similar, and probably the same idiots not respecting sacred space, items, and people? There’s a reason there are complete or partial photographic bans in cathedrals – it’s rude, wrong, and just plain tacky to take a goofy self-glorifying portrait in worship space, often while worship is ongoing. You already covered how tacky it is to take an obnoxious picture in the resting place of a nation’s war dead, so I won’t go back over that ground. Let me also add that those who guard the Unknowns here and the various palaces in the UK are NOT windup toys to take stupid pictures with. They are serving soldiers, most of whom have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have zero sympathy from me if one of the Unknowns sentinels barks at you to display appropriate respect or one of the Queen’s Guard points his SA80 at you and tells you in no uncertain terms to stand back.

      • Ahahaha, so no replaying the whole ceremony once a year to make sure no one missed a moment? No montages of dancing couples who are definitely NOT Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, repeated bride and groom kisses at the clinking of glasses, kids falling asleep in chairs, and other moments that look soooo precious? You have a lot more common sense and foresight than a lot of folks, I have to say.

        I take more photos than most folks, and with a camera that can hold 7000 on its memory card and almost never depletes the batteries there’s no reason not to take 2 or 3 rather than one to make sure I get the best shot and no reason not to shoot anything and everything that catches my eye…except the exercise of discretion.

        No one cares if I take a picture of a stand of flowers or a bird in a tree as long as I’m not trespassing on private property. No one cares if I shoot a statue or a painting or whatever, unless the housing institution has clearly laid down the rule that photography is not allowed inside or that this or that exhibit is off-limits for photography. No one has a reason to care if I shoot any kind of outdoor performance, be it a parade, a fair, an airshow, a race, or whatever. If you are a performer you mean to be seen. Indoors is another story, and again, the venue needs to make it really clear, print it in the program and announce it at the start of the show – no flash photography, no recording, or no photography of any kind (confiscating people’s cell phones at the door is probably excessive and an invitation to liability).

        The thing is, most people would appreciate a picture of blooming flowers or a perching blue jay. Most would appreciate an artistically shot statue. Most would appreciate a marching band or planes in flight or clowns (although the more specific you get the more niche the appreciation becomes). The other side of it is that plants, animals, objects, etc. never object and performing performers have no reason to object (unless you break the rules of the venue).

        What’s problematic is when photographers don’t exercise discretion and are only worried about getting the shot no one else has, or amateur photographers don’t think about the moment captured now is going to become an issue later on. Don’t try to play Michael Moore and get a shot of some political figure licking his comb before he parts his hair while he waits for the parade to start and before he gets on the float. Don’t try to catch the singer in flip-flops between sets because those high heels hurt like gangbusters. Don’t zoom in on the guy in the business suit if he picks his nose for a second because it was dry and driving him crazy. For heaven’s sake don’t take deliberately embarrassing or problematic pictures of family members: children crying over petty stuff, people crying over legitimately sad stuff, people falling asleep in awkward positions, your cousin trying to dance at a wedding after one too many, that time you let your 8yo and her cousins run naked under the sprinkler, your overweight would-be ballet dancer of 12 making a fool of herself in a leotard. Nothing good comes of any of that, and although you might think it’s funny or touching or whatever to send those images around the world, the folks in them might not think so. Just like not every thought needs to go on social media, not every moment needs to be captured for posterity.

  2. My vote: “Find ways to stop raising narcissists [and nature-lovers] with no respect or regard for nature.” But I object to the inclusion of the term nature lovers. If they were truly nature lovers, they would know the dictum of “take nothing, leave nothing.” Photos are fine and absolutely part of the experience. But most of these people (the morons) won’t invest in proper photographic equipment, preferring to use their stupid cell phones which don’t have adequate range for background. Hence the dangerous selfies. I have an adequate camera that takes pretty good photos that cost about $200. (I can’t take a picture worth a damn on a cell phone.) I took a selfie with my real camera once, just to see if I could. The photo was ok, but the experience of me staring back from the image cured me of ever taking even one more selfie, with anything. Do all of these selfie-taking narcissists really think they look so great in these photos? Someone should tell them.

  3. Morons at national parks are nothing new. When I was a kid — more years ago than I care to admit — my mother often felt the need to admonish the morons who got between mother bears and their cubs for a photo op, or who yelled at and otherwise teased the big male bears who wandered around. She call them morons then, to their faces. She was a nature lover who had an almost mystic affinity with all living things: but her aim was to watch the natural world and love it, not interfere with it.

    The narcissistic need for selfies has created a whole new class of morons, or at least a method by which they exhibit their narcissism and/or idiocy. They’ve probably always been morons; now, however, they have a great way to demonstrate that to the world at large. The question “How often do you take a selfie?” should be added to all IQ tests…

    • And if your answer is more than once every 10 years, you fail! Yeah, yeah, I know…can’t fail an I.Q. test. We should create that just for these lunkheads.

  4. I just don’t get the selfie craze, I don’t get it at all!

    P.S. I think the Bison Selfie photo above is photoshopped, it’s proportionally not correct and the lighting isn’t consistent.

  5. I throw quite a bit of blame squarely on Walt Disney.

    His singing, dancing, anthropomorphized beasts have convinced generation after generation that animals are really sweet and loving creatures under those scary fangs and claws. Sure, they might kill someone, but it was always someone who deserved it, and never the good guys.

    I do enjoy watching “when animals attack” and I root loudly for the animals to take a hunk out of those stupid humans.

  6. Maybe we should encourage people to watch the Nature or Smithsonian channels rather than Disney. Our schools, our teachers and our society at large are woefully ignorant about nature and wildlife. I’m sure there are many good places on the Internet where we can find good nature education curricula, but we certainly don’t have them in most US schools. Anybody in this group ever have an adequate class on wildlife?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.