November 2000

It occurred to us, as we drove out Sunday for a day of bouldering at Bishop Cap, that the heart of the problem with access is the simple fact that there are just too many people out at the crags!

As we pondered this, we realized that individuals can do a lot to help. You know, "think globally act locally". If each of us can discourage at least one family group or one person from camping out or going to a state or National Park this weekend, we can make a big difference. The more we thought about it, the more feasible the plan seemed. We realized that we should not just work to discourage people from visiting climbing or wilderness areas, but that it would be best to go a step farther and discourage all outdoor activity! Moreover, anything we can do to encourage indoor activity, preferably sedentary activity such as being a couch-potato, will help because it will render people too fat to hike or climb or ride, even if they are tempted into going outside by something they see on TV.

The more we cogitated, the more we realized we should not be selective about who we encourage to become couch-potatoes. Even climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, etc. should be targeted. After all, legions of lowly scum from all those groups crowd the wilderness now; the more of them we can keep in the city the better it will be for the rest of us!

So, now that we know what the mission is, how can we accomplish it? will do its part, by acting as a clearinghouse for tips, tricks, and techniques for discouraging outdoor activity. We will happily post any success stories you send us about discouraging visitation to your local crags.

We are working on a comprehensive web-guide to help you spread the gospel of couchpotatoism. Until that guide is complete, here are some tips that you can put to good use right away.

* The next time you learn that a coworker or acquaintance is planning a trip to the mountains, start planting couch potato seeds. "Wouldn't the kids enjoy a trip to Disneyland more? There are so many mosquitoes in the mountains this time of year. By the way, did you hear about that boy that wandered away from that campsite last year? They finally found his body a month ago less than a mile from the road. They said the body had been partially devoured by vultures and coyotes."

* Mention statistics that indicate that sedentary people live longer, happier, and more fulfilling lives. Remind them of the way runners and basketball players sometimes drop dead at a young age.

* Emphasize how dangerous being in a National Park is. Remind them about all the instances of maniacs killing people, like the guy who beheaded the young blond female naturalist in Yosemite last year. Even being near wilderness areas increases the chances of encountering Uni-bombers or militia groups.

* Whenever the topic of the outdoors comes up, try to recall some disaster or problem that happened to someone outside. Rock fall, flood, wildfire, blizzards - all of these things happen when people are outside.

* Going outside increases the chance of being a victim of a bear, mountain lion, or other wild animal attack. Try to have ready some actual stories, preferably of someone's face being mauled into mush, ready for the potential vacationer. Remind them that bears can break right into their shiny new Honda to get at the chips and cheese.

* Emphasize how much safer it is to be indoors. No UV skin damage, better air quality, no need to worry about exertion during ozone-alert days.

* All car wrecks take place outdoors. So do bicycle crashes and pedestrian injuries.

* Discourage driving. Gasoline is expensive and cars pollute the air. Driving is dangerous, road building destroys wildlife, and internal combustion engines are evil according to Al Gore, Ralph Nader, and others. Cars are only needed if you are traveling, so the best thing is to stay indoors. If you do have to leave the house, for example to go to Wal-Mart to buy another TV, do not drive yourself. Take a bus. You are safer in the bus than driving. Minimize your exposure to the sun or other elements. Try to travel only at night, on well-lighted roads.

* Encourage people to believe that fad diets work, particularly the high-fat high-protein diets that are popular of late. When they ask you "how do you stay so thin?" tell them you use the Atkins diet. Explain that it is normal to gain 20-30 lbs. when you first go on the diet, but to stick with it, eating plenty of bacon and deep-fried cheese balls - once your metabolism "turns around" the pounds will melt off like magic!

* Discourage exercise. If someone complains they don't get enough, remind them that most heart attacks take place while jogging. Joggers can get hit by cars, and they breathe in pollution. Home exercise equipment is expensive and takes up room. Explain that studies show you can get almost the same benefit from watching sports on TV while you vacuum the house.

* Talk about injuries and how expensive they are to repair, with time in hospitals where you can catch infections or be a victim of medical error.

* TV watching is obviously a highly safe and healthy activity - why else would hospitals include a TV in every room, positioned so that the patient can watch even if paralyzed and near death?

* Mosquitoes can give you encephalitis and other diseases. Most mosquitoes are found outdoors. There are fewer of them in cities than in the wilderness. Be sure to advise potential campers about the skin-crawling torture of millions of mosquitoes that await them, and advise them to bring plenty of repellent with high levels of DEET. Also remind them that DEET is toxic and that there is nothing else on the market that works.

* Hanta-virus can be caught outdoors, wherever there are mice and rats. The wilderness is teeming with mice and rats, and rodent feces is everywhere.

* Killer bee attacks are on the rise. Mention a few in your area, and remind them that killer bees were found near the planned camping spot. Offer a thoughtful description of what it would be like to be pursued, caught, and then covered with hundreds of bees, all stinging you until you die.

*Most snake bites occur outdoors. Each year, a few climbers are bitten, sometimes as they reach up for a hold.

* Encourage people to buy Dish TV and cable access, with as many channels as possible.

* Computers and the Internet - this can be good and bad. It's good because most computer use occurs indoors and contributes to obesity, but it can be bad if the person reads about someplace outdoors that they are tempted to go to. Counter this by discouraging them from using any travel-related site such as or You can mention problems with credit-card fraud, or rooms not being available as advertised. However, because we like on-line shopping (it lets people stay at home), emphasize that the big on-line retailers never have problems with credit card fraud or failure to deliver product. (Please remember that we want to discourage sales of climbing and outdoor gear, but that if these sales cannot be prevented, it is better to have the gear delivered.)

* If people insist on going on a vacation, steer them toward Las Vegas, Disneyland, etc. However, all vacations are bad because they get people off the couch and out of the house, where there is a greater chance they will go to a wilderness or climbing area.

* Keep people away from BLM land by telling them about heavily armed ranchers with itchy trigger fingers and big dislike for greenie-weenie ecology types. Also, most of the open land near the SW border is overrun with "wets and border patrol" (to quote a nice rancher I met this year), all armed and looking to draw a bead on something.

* Children should be encouraged to stay indoors, so that they learn the TV watching lifestyle early. Obviously, it is dangerous for children to go outside - they are subject to falling off their bike or scooter, being attacked, molested, robbed, hit by cars, and many other types of mayhem while they are outside. Inside, it is warm, safe, and there is a big, wide world to be discovered via the tube, from the womb-like comfort of the couch.

* Children should not climb, trees, mountains, or rocks. It is too dangerous, and borders on child-abuse. Climbers who have kids should give up climbing, stay home and play monopoly and watch TV with the kids.

* The safest place in the house is on the couch in the living room. Encourage people to stay there.

* Discourage flying. Air travel is bad and dangerous. Jets destroy the ozone layer. Airplanes are built and maintained by fallible humans. Even if the plane is working normally, it can crash because of bad weather or pilot error. Still worse, crazy, depressed pilots sometimes deliberately crash perfectly functional aircraft because they "trust Allah". Learn to think of planes as death chambers. If travel is unavoidable, driving is better (because it takes longer, and people can't get to true wilderness as easily by car.) 4x4s are bad because they can leave paved roads. Discourage people from buying any vehicle with off-road capability.

* Commercial indoor climbing gyms might seem like a good idea at first, but they could tempt people to go to the crags. Also, climbers might meet other climbers who might tell them about new cragging areas. If climbers cannot be stopped from climbing on artificial holds, the best thing to do is to locate the climbing walls in the house, near the couch and the TV. This will discourage the climber from leaving the house, and it tends to cut down on contact with other climbers.

* Bird watching should be discouraged. No matter how well meaning the watchers, the chance of accidentally disturbing a rare bird is too great. Also, you can injure yourself while you are distracted by the bird, etc. It is far safer, for both the birds and the birdwatchers, to stay home and watch TV specials about birds.

* If you encounter someone who insists on engaging in some kind of outdoor athletic activity, try to steer them toward activities that take place in cities. Traditional team sports such as baseball, basketball, and football are ideal. Football is probably the best choice, since there is a significant risk of injury that would result in the person having to stay home. Also, ex football players typically eat too much, and become too fat to go outside very often.

The TV is your friend... the TV is your friend...