Adam's SourcesAdam Ruins Everything

Adam Ruins Nature

Adam Ruins Nature

In this episode, Adam digs up the dirt on the great outdoors, revealing that Everest is a frozen pile of poop, natural disasters are actually man-made and there’s no such thing as pristine wilderness. Here are his sources.



“When mountaineers Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary summited Everest in 1953, it was a feat never before achieved by humankind.”

John Noble Wilford. “When a Mountaintop May as Well Have Been the Moon.” New York Times, 13 Jan 2008.

But today, budget tour companies help over 100,000 amateurs climb Everest each year!”

Meredith Hoffman. “One Year After Deadly Disaster, Climbers Are Still Leaving Shit All Over Mount Everest.” Vice News, 17 Apr 2015.

“So many climbers abandon tents, equipment and other items on their climb, the mountain annually accumulates around 50 new tons of trash!”

Gyan P. Nyaupane. “Mountaineering on Mount Everest: Evolution, Economy, Ecology, and Ethics.” Mountaineering Tourism. Routledge, 2015.

“Everest tourists annually leave behind around 26,500 pounds of pee and poop!”

Peter Holley. “Decades of human waste have made Mount Everest a ‘fecal time bomb.’” Washington Post, 3 Mar 2015.

“And since it takes longer for waste to disintegrate at high altitudes, that means this majestic mountain is covered in our poopsicles!”

Brent Bishop. “Peak Poop: The Feces Problem on Everest Needs a Solution.” Outside Magazine, 7 Apr 2015.

“So much human waste has built up over the years that the local villages’ major water sources are now completely polluted. And their yaks frequently get stuck in ponds of human poop! “

Peter Holley. “Decades of human waste have made Mount Everest a ‘fecal time bomb.’” Washington Post, 3 Mar 2015.

“Hundreds of people have died on Everest -- there’s one dead body for every ten successful summits!”

Stewart Green. “Death Rate of Mount Everest Climbers." ThoughtCo, 2 Jan 2018.

“And since the temperatures are so frigid, they’ll never decompose. There are so many frozen corpses on Everest, climbers actually use them to navigate.”

Rachel Nuwer. “Death in the Clouds: the Problem with Everest’s 200+ Bodies.” BBC Future, 9 Oct 2015.

“It’s one of the deadliest jobs on the planet. A third of the people who die on Everest are Sherpas.”

Danielle Preiss. “One Third of Everest Deaths Are Sherpa Climbers.” National Public Radio, 14 Apr 2018.

“Hurricane Katrina was one monster of a mess. 1,800 people died, and 80% of the New Orleans’ population was displaced. But, I’m gonna shock you here -- the surprising truth is, Hurricane Katrina was not the storm of the century. In fact, it may have been as weak as a Category 1 when it hit New Orleans.”

Dr. Jeff Masters. “Katrina only a Cat 1 in New Orleans?” Weather Underground, 13 Oct 2005.

“Half of New Orleans was below sea level, which means it relied on these levees to control flooding. But the levees were constructed out of sand or built atop porous soil, which made them extremely vulnerable to rapid erosion during Katrina.”

Adrienne LaFrance. “A Brief History of Levees.” The Atlantic, 31 Aug 2015.

“Whoaaa, there goes the neighborhood! Literally, ha ha. It’s not funny, ha ha. Now, these levees had been desperately in need of maintenance for decades! According to an engineering investigator: ‘If not for the U.S. Army Corps’ failure [to maintain and strengthen the levees], the worst Katrina would have visited on New Orleans would have been ‘wet ankles.’”

Harry Shearer. “New Orleanians learn they have to help themselves rebuild after the worst disaster to shatter their world.” San Francisco Chronicle, 26 Aug 2007.

“Until the 1960s, Houston was naturally protected from major flooding thanks to its coastal prairies, which absorbed floodwaters before they could do any damage.”

“How government policy exacerbates hurricanes like Harvey.” The Economist, 2 Sep 2017.

“But as the city expanded, greedy developers exploited legal loopholes to pave over those prairies. And worse, they didn’t even tell new residents that they now lived in a flood zone!”

John Schwarz et al. “Builders Said Their Homes Were Out of a Flood Zone. Then Harvey Came.” New York Times, 2 Dec 2017.

“So when Harvey hit, the water had nowhere to go, and 47,000 people were displaced.”

Giulia Afiune. “Harvey was three months ago. These displaced families are still in limbo.” Texas Tribune, 21 Nov 2017.

“Every time there’s a major storm, the media sends dopes like me to stand outside and get rained on for your amusement. But the truth is, the wind and rain weren’t responsible for the estimated thousands of lives lost in Puerto Rico. It was because after the storm, the island went 84 days without water and 64 days without electricity.”

Leyla Santiago et al. “Puerto Rico’s new Hurricane Maria death toll is 46 times higher than the previous count.” CNN, 28 Aug 2018.

“And you can see it action if you look at the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti. In 2010, an earthquake in this region devastated Haiti -- there were 230,000 deaths.”

Richard A. Lovett. “Why Chile fared better than Haiti.” Nature, 1 Mar 2010.

“Movin’ on down to Chile, we see that even though the magnitude of the quake there was 500 times stronger, there were only about 700 deaths.”

Tim Padgett. “Chile and Haiti: A Tale of Two Earthquakes.” Time, 1 Mar 2010.

“Now, let’s take a look at Drip’s Dripcast to see what to expect with that: Yep, you’re gonna see severe deforestation that exacerbated mudslides; poor infrastructure that can’t withstand disasters, and 80% of the country’s population living below the poverty line.”

Anthony Reuben. “Why did fewer die in Chile’s earthquake than Haiti’s?” BBC News, 1 Mar 2010.

“The Ahwahneechee tribe had made their home in the area we now know as Yosemite for at least three and a half thousand years. But Muir didn’t consider them natural at all.”

“Their Lifeways.” Yosemite, National Park Service, 2017.

“But what Muir didn’t realize was, the supposedly “pristine” nature he found was in fact created by the Ahwahneechee, because they had actively cultivated the land for millennia by selectively pruning, sowing, and setting controlled fires.”

Justin Nobel. “The Miseducation of John Muir.” Atlas Obscura, 26 Jul 2016.

“Forest fires are actually necessary to maintain the health of a forest. By conducting controlled burns, the Ahwahneechee cleared undergrowth and made space for new plants to grow, increasing biodiversity!”

Eric Michael Johnson. “How John Muir’s Brand of Conservation Led to the Decline of Yosemite.” Scientific American, 13 Aug 2014.

“Simply going on a hike in the woods changes the ecosystem you visit. One study found that hiking trails create a “corridor of impact,” wherein wildlife reacts to human presence up to 100 meters on either side of the trail.”

James MacDonald. “Outdoor Recreation Can Impact Wildlife.” JSTOR Daily, 6 Mar 2017.

“The Atlantic Ocean is so crowded with fishing boats, shipping lines, undersea cables and chemical runoff that right whales now effectively live in a noisy and polluted underwater city.”

J.B. MacKinnon. “It’s Tough Being a Whale These Days." The Atlantic, 30 Jul 2018.

“To feed our massive appetite, humanity now breeds so much livestock that our animal food supply outweighs all other terrestrial mammals by 14 times.”

Vaclav Smil. The Earth’s "Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics and Change. MIT Press, 2002.

"We’ve even changed the air itself. 5,000 years ago, the dawn of rice farming released so much methane into the atmosphere, it actually thwarted a second ice age. And the record of that methane is still visible in ice cores today.”

William F. Ruddiman. “The anthropogenic greenhouse era began thousands of years ago.” Climatic Change 61.3 (2003).

“And thanks to increased forest clearing, factory emissions, electricity generation and transportation, every breath we take now contains 41% more carbon dioxide than it did in 1750.”

“41% more carbon dioxide”

Justin Gillis. “Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears.” New York Times, 10 May 2013.

For More On These Topics

This harrowing New York Times multimedia feature chronicles the effort to rescue climbers lost in an avalanche on Everest.

Climate change and its urgency are made engaging for children in The Madhouse Effect, a cartoon-filled book co-authored by our expert Michael Mann.

Our expert Emma Maris did a TED talk about the wealth of nature in cities that goes virtually unnoticed.