I have seen various articles, recently, including this rather balanced and good one, asking the public to stop building stacks of rocks. I struggle with this issue all the time. Not always specifically with rock balancing (as we call it here), but with engagement with the wilderness. It's what I do, and I'm passionate about it. There are SO many long-lasting benefits to playing in the wilderness, both for adults and children... and for the wilderness.
Most people now live in urban areas, are very disconnected from the wilderness, and also harbour a fear of it simply because they don't know it, and/or have been warned about it by their parents. So I take them out to gorgeous wilderness areas and let them play with it. Yes, they move rocks and build dams; they pick up sticks and play with them; build bridges and forts and storefronts where they craft beautiful 'wares' out of clay they scraped from the creeks, mud they scooped from the ground, grasses and leaves they plucked, and moss they pulled from the trees. And as they do this I help them to understand the importance of those things. I show them how the moss holds the water on the rocks to feed the trees; how it forms the bed for the many plants and animals that grow in the trees. I show them the body of the mushroom that lay hidden in the rotten log they crushed, and the importance of that mycelium to the welfare of the whole forest. I show them the many insects and gastropods, etc. that live on the bottom of the rocks in the creeks and the many animals and plants that thrive in and around the mud they are messing with. And they go home filthy, leaving the landscape changed, and also they are changed, themselves. They know the landscape. They aren't afraid to engage with it, and they have a deep appreciation of the many varied and integral parts of it.
When most of us look at a map of a proposed development or construction, we see a map. We can usually relate to it for how it fits or doesn't fit into our community plan or activities. But we don't often think about how many species of insects live on the bottom of the rocks in the creek that flows through the top left quadrant of that map. We don't usually know how our bums feel after sitting in the wet moss on the rotten log at the base of the biggest tree in the bottom left quadrant. We don't think about how much that area or the whole of our community will be impacted by the loss of that area. We don't have a deep sense of caring for the wilderness of that area, so we don't take that into consideration. And then it isn't just altered - it's gone.
This is happening everywhere. So many of us feel unperturbed when we hear that they're building pipelines out in the unpopulated areas of our wilderness, because that wilderness is not our home. The people giving directives to make changes to the wilderness are not often personally acquainted with that wilderness. Our homes are refuges from the wilderness, in towns and cities that are, themselves, refuges from the wilderness. But those concepts separate us from it, and we lose sight of our own welfare. Humans are wilderness. We have to learn to engage with it every single day because it is part of our global body - so that even the tiny changes we make matter to us. The changes will be part of us too, and if we engage with our wilderness wholly and personally, we can be thoughtful about how we engage.
So do I feel it's OK for us all to go littering the shores with piles of rocks, pulling the moss off the trees and artfully carving up the trunks of trees? No. And this is a challenge for me. But I feel that being challenged by the ways we engage with our wilderness is very important. I feel it's essential that we go out and play. And while we play we must question (or help those with us to question) every move we make and its impact on the body of the ecosystem we are a part of.
I sometimes balance rocks. I find it personally rewarding, and also a wonderful activity to help others to engage with a bit of landscape they may have previously walked over, unseeing. As I pick up the rocks I check for animals, algae and eggs living on and under them, and when I'm finished I carefully put them back again. I do this in order to leave things closer to the way I found them, but I also do it because balanced rocks can fall on small animals. I am not sure I'm doing the right thing, but I think the conversation around how we engage with our ecosystem is definitely the right thing.