Week 17: Taking Action

It’s a new year, so I thought it was time we talked about some concrete solutions for the issues we’ve been covering. Though these articles cover nearly the same topic, each article looks at solutions in a unique way and brings fresh ideas to the table. This is just a start, but I hope it can get us moving. In other news, I made an Instagram for the newsletter: @everybodyoutsidenewsletter !

Five Ways to Make the Outdoors More Inclusive

illustration by Callan Burton-Shore

This is by far my favorite of the three articles, for they not only give clear solutions, but they break each one into concrete steps. The Atlantic teamed up with REI and outdoor experts to discuss DEI (Diversity, equity, inclusion) in the outdoors. The experts included Perry Cohen, founder of The Venture Out Project (week 14); Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces; and Jose Gonzalez, founder of Latino Outdoors (week 2). They say the first step is to “teach the full history of the outdoors,” for the conservation movement is wrought with violence towards people of color. It is thus important that memorials in National Parks show this and that outdoor education groups prioritize time for storytelling. The next step is to ensure that marginalized folx feel comfortable in outdoor spaces. The experts agreed that park ranger uniforms must be made more casual and that rangers should never carry guns, so as not to resemble law enforcement officers. U.S. National Park workers are 83% white, but this could potentially be solved by creating pathways such as internships & fellowships for people of color to work in the parks. Lastly, there are economic barriers to outdoors which could be helped by making entrance fees or park passes free, or at least tax write offs. 

Start With Silence

Illustration by Callan Burton-Shore

According to the education director of The Mountaineers blog, Becca Polglase, even though more people are becoming aware of the lack of diversity in the outdoors, those at the head of the discussion are still largely white (to note, Polglase is white). Polglase says she recently learned at a conference for outdoor educators that the key to the solution is the concept of the “progressive stack.” This is a system in which the most marginalized voices are always given the first word and the freedom to speak openly. She makes the crucial point that, “outdoors people thinking we are welcoming does not always translate to others feeling welcome.” The first step as a more privileged person is to make sure no one else wants to speak before you do, and then ASK if those who haven’t spoken have anything to say. 

8 Ways Environmental Organizations Can Support the Movement for Environmental Justice

illustration by Callan Burton-Shore

Environmental Justice describes the disproportionate effect of pollution and climate related natural disasters on the poor, people of color, and often indigenous peoples. The principles of Environmental Justice include the end of product testing on people of color, the full inclusion of marginalized people in any environmental discussion, and the compensation for damages felt by marginalized communities. This article from We Act, an environmental justice organization, is targeted towards organizations, but I think their advice is applicable to the individual as well. The first way you can help is to lend your skills for free. For instance, representing communities in the courtroom, helping to test water sources, or, for those with less professional experience, simply asking community members how you can help. If you are not involved in an environmental organization yourself, you might begin only supporting organizations that follow these guidelines as well as calling in organizations who do not. Organizations need to have genuine diversity, not just tokenism. Finally, as an individual, you can use your privilege to protest unjust actions by organizations or the government.

My Take

I by no means have the place to give advice on this subject, as a white, cis woman, but from the time I’ve spent in outdoor spaces and groups I have taken note of small practices that role models of mine have made. For instance, it can often be difficult to explain to children in an outdoor education space what it means to be trans, non binary, or queer, but instead of ignoring the issue altogether, you might try briefly explaining pronouns and then asking the children to simply comply to the pronouns of their peers and instructors. Additionally it is best to not separate students or campers by gender in activities or other scenarios. Lastly, although it is only a small gesture, at the beginning of a program, teach the students or participants a short history of the indigenous people who lived on the land you are on.

More Resources

Thank you so much for reading! Your time and access to technology is a privilege, so this week, educate yourself and take action!