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BASE Jumping: Articles: Philosophy: Ethical Philosophy

Ethical Philosophy

by BASEwiki

BASE jumping has its own peculiar set of ethical guidelines. These ethics have evolved (and continue to do so) over time. The underlying motivation for BASE ethics is our shared desire to jump, and to do so while avoiding arrest or injury. The bottom line aim of BASE ethics is to allow us all to continue making as many jumps as possible in the long run. It follows then, that actions which make it harder for others to jump are generally viewed as unethical, to some (varying) degree.

The guiding principle of BASE ethics is respect.

Respect: Show respect for the sport, the sites, and other people (both jumpers and non-jumpers).

Failing to respect the serious nature of BASE will quickly alienate many experienced jumpers, who have learned to respect BASE through hard personal experiences. Lack of respect for the sport can be shown in many ways. Dismissing the inherent dangers of the sport is one. Taking unprepared people off for a “BASE thrill ride” is another. Instructing students who lack appropriate preparation is a third. The bottom line is that BASE can be a fun game—but it can also turn deadly serious in a heartbeat. Remembering this is one of the keys to a long, healthy life, and also to a long, healthy jumping career.

Failing to respect sites, and the guidelines for jumping them (formal or otherwise) will almost certainly anger the other jumpers who established, and continue to jump, those sites. Site guidelines and procedures vary from simple (“don’t land by the farmhouse”), to Byzantine (“drive up the left side of the dirt road, park behind the loading dock, and keep your lights on until you reach the third door”), to downright bizarre.

Respecting other people is a basic guideline of human interaction we all learned in kindergarten. This nicety of human interaction is even more important in BASE. You depend on the jumpers around you for instruction, assistance and mutual aid. While this is most obvious in simple things, like carpooling to a jump site, it also applies to opening and maintaining site access, avoiding arrest, and providing medical assistance to injured jumpers. In the most extreme, we rely on each other for emotional support when tragedy occurs. While we sometimes like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, in the end, BASE is a team sport.

Jumpers must also respect the non-jumping people who live or work around BASE sites. Many jumpers travel to jump, and it is important to understand and respect the culture (and wishes) of the local people. There are some popular cliffs in Europe, for example, where jumpers are asked to land in specific areas so as not to disrupt local agriculture. The popular legal span in the western US is located in a small, conservative, rural community, which has little tolerance for public nudity or profanity. Understanding and respecting the culture of local residents helps protect site access, as well as conveying a positive image of BASE jumpers to the general public.

A note on legality: BASE ethics are not necessarily related to legality. It is obviously possible to make an illegal jump which is, by BASE standards, perfectly ethical. It is also possible to make a legal jump which is not, by BASE standards, ethical. The two systems (ethics and legality) operate independently.

Submitted by BASEwiki on 2007-06-13 | Last Modified on 2007-06-27

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