This overview, or retrospective, has two objectives. The first is to demonstrate how the principles of ‘mountain geoecology’ were applied in an attempt to counteract the political and socio-economic impacts of a major and misguided environmental orthodoxy-the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation (henceforth to be referred to as the ‘Theory’). The second is to explore the difficulties of transferring the results of on-going scholarly mountain research into the public and political decision-making process. In this sense the paper should be regarded as a case study of the potentially serious effects of exaggerated and emotionally based responses to orthodoxies founded on assumptions and latter-day myths. A third objective, reserved for the companion paper in this issue, outlines the origins of mountain geoecology and explores how academic research influenced the inclusion of high level concern for mountain problems within AGENDA 21, one of the principal results of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (popularly known as the Rio Earth Summit) and declaration of 2002 as the International Year of Mountains.