Climbing, compliance and coping with change
The world’s tallest mountain may now be a little easier to climb. Following the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake Mount Everest may have shrunk by a meter, according to a team of Indian scientists who are seeking to survey the mountain to see if its height has in fact changed.
The loss in height seems like a non-story (what’s a missing meter in a mountain of 8,848 meters?), but it speaks to our belief that, regardless of what else is changing, some things, like mountains, are permanent.
An enduring monument of great height, Mount Everest also serves as a measuring stick for the adventurous, as some 4,000 climbers who have successfully made the climb will attest. What happens when the benchmark itself changes? Should we append an asterisk to the claims of climbers who conquer a shorter Everest?
It’s a silly question, given that a single meter is unlikely to deter, or reward, anyone who’s already climbed 8,847 of them, and survived hazards that include altitude sickness, falling temperatures, deadly avalanches and deep crevasses. Still, it points to our need to equitably account for the accomplishments of those who’ve fought—and overcome—the various frictions unleashed upon them while making the ascent and measure their achievements against the same standard. We assume that mountains, like playing fields, are stable entities, so that everyone has to comply equally with the same challenges and obstacles.
The idea that this ageless standard itself might be threatened, even imperceptibly, speaks to the destructive power of friction itself, since friction is most likely responsible for the possible drop in height. After all, earthquakes are caused by the physical friction of tectonic plates moving against each other—friction that causes the plates to get stuck, and then forcefully unstuck, producing a quake that, in this instance, may have knocked the massive mountain down a notch.
Buyers and suppliers, of course, are well acquainted with the idea of shifting standards. Because legal requirements differ from country to country, and can change from year to year, supply chain partners are accustomed to the challenges of keeping up with them. Whether one is climbing a mountain or navigating the supply chain, keeping up is no easy task, which is why it’s often a good idea to seek help from a trusted guide.