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According to an ABC news story, more than 200 people will attempt to reach this summit of Mount Everest this weekend alone. In recent years, anyone able to fork our $75,000 in permits and supply adequate equipment, can attempt to summit the world’s most famous peak. Just last week, four climbers died of exhaustion and exposure on their descent from the top. Experts fear that more may die this weekend.
As a kid, I remember hearing tales of Sir Edmund Hilary making the summit. It seemed such an exotic thing to be an explorer. But now I look with a degree of cynicism on today’s summit attempts. It seems that even the most out of the way places have fallen prey to consumerism and commodification. How long will it be before James Cameron starts offering guided tours to the ocean’s deepest point?
Other “Everests” are losing distinction a well. The Ph.D. once was a revered degree, reflecting years of dedication, hard work, and scholarship that set the recipient apart in a way that truly deserved respect. Now, the number of Ph.D. holders on government assistance is sharply rising as massive student loan debt and a glut of candidates for every open teaching job strips aspiring academics of their ability to earn a living wage. Often over-qualified for hourly jobs, these teachers get by on food stamps and the occasional adjunct class.
I think we need new, innovative Everests. Any ideas what those might be? What is YOUR Everest?