Second day of Climbers Forum 2018 in Augsburg

The second days themes were a mix of climbing- and rigging-related topics in the morning and women in tree care in the afternoon.

Max Broekmann kicked off the day with an interesting discussion regarding off-label use of equipment and how this ties in with legislation. Rather than this being a grey area, in my mind that there is a clear and unambiguous route towards making such decisions: The manufacturer provides suitable and sufficient information for you to decided whether the use you are proposing to put the tool to is appropriate. If in doubt, you use your risk assessment. If the conclusion of this process is that risk is being mitigated to an acceptable degree, you press on, if not, you reconsider options.

Then I presented the results of a series of tests performed by treepartner, teufelberger and treemagineers on a wide range of friction hitch combinations. I will write a separate post on this in the days to come…

Then Manuel Schuster did a practical sessions on ascent systems. This was really interesting, as he covered some quite basic topics, as well as advanced techniques. None the less, I thought that the build was logical and coherent – and it is important not to neglect basic stuff. We are all in such a rush to go one better, newer, shinier, faster, that I think we risk forgetting the basics of what we are actually trying to achieve. So a presentation like this, not shying away from building from the basics felt like a breath of fresh air…

When thinking about this year’s program, and in view of the fact that this was the twentieth anniversary of Climbers Forum, I was considering what big changes there had been in that period. The increasing number of women actively involved in tree care was one of the obvious points. Having said that, the fact that the balance is still very much skewed  towards men is a source of considerable frustration to me, therefore I felt this merited half a days discussing, not in the illusion that this would sort it, but you have to start somewhere!

Anja Erni and her team did a great job of kicking off the afternoon with various characters illustrating a number of mechanisms in play. The presentation revolved around a fictional film, Vicki Without Y, of which a number of scenes were played. These were commented by the director of the film, a female tree climber and a scientist – all played by Anja. This made for a very lively and dynamic session, whilst not losing a evidence-based foundation for what was being shown out of sight.

Marika Pylkkänen did a talk on women in tree care in Finland. As I have written about in the past, this is unique environment in regards to gender balance, so I was looking forwards to hearing Marika’s take on it. Interestingly she spoke at length about the structure and evolution of tree care in Finland – yet she did not say much about the reasons for the unique balance between the sexes. In hindsight I realised that maybe this is a bit like asking a fish to describe water, when discussing it with Marika later, she said that they themselves are not clear for the reasons.

Florim Ajda presented his interview-based film on women in tree care. For this he travelled to a number of places to interview female arborists – resulting in a very profound, moving film, with beautiful imagery as well as insightful interviews.

The final point on the program was a discussion panel titled Women in Tree Care, Opportunity or Minefield. Admittedly that could be taken as a bit of a provocation, but that was not the spirit it was meant in. The question was less whether women represent an opportunity or a minefield, but rather how men view this change. The discussion started up slow, but picked up pace rapidly, with a dizzyingly wide range of points being raised. In the end I cut off the discussion as it felt that otherwise we could have spent the whole evening there.

What I took away from the afternoon was that this is a topic where there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Gender is but one facet which makes you who you are, rather than getting tripped up by the issue of sex, it makes much more sense to see beyond it and recognise the individual with his or her strengths and weaknesses. After all, people are so diverse, tall, short, fat, thin, beautiful, ugly, agile, stocky… there is not such thing as a typical man or typical woman. Get over it – and let’s celebrate diversity together!