“I have received love, unsure smiles, offers of assistance, and words of hate on banks of rivers and on the trails that are meant to be for everyone. These experiences have shaped my desire to bring about more diversity and inclusion in who occupies outdoor spaces and who turns to nature and the outdoors as a place of refuge and healing.” – Demiesha Dennis, Founder of Brown Girl Outdoor World
Imagine sleeping under thousands of stars. Climbing up a lichen-covered cliff. Roasting marshmallows while camping.
Adventure looks different to everyone. For some, it’s summiting mountains or surfing big waves. For others, it’s a leisurely walk on a new path in your neighborhood. Opportunities for outdoor adventure are endless and all around us.
A great way to develop a deeper love for our planet is to get outside and savor its beauty. Strong connections with nature create awareness of the interdependence between our own lives and the environment. Respect and appreciation for the natural world are the basis for a sustainable society where people and the Earth live in harmony.
Everyone deserves to enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately, not everyone has access or feels welcome. Recent US census data indicated that white people constitute 60% of the population, yet upwards of 95% of all visitors to public lands and over 80% of all employees of the National Park Service are white. Additionally, many media campaigns for outdoor gear and excursions overrepresent white people and do not accurately depict the diversity of the United States or convey an inclusive environment.
This doesn’t mean that other groups don’t want outdoor adventures. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community members report feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in outdoor spaces, from which marginalized groups have been systematically excluded. 74% of non-white people live in nature-deprived areas, and 70% of low-income people report not having direct access to nature.
To understand this accessibility gap, we need to look back at history. When the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, one provision allowed Black people in the United States to visit state and national parks for the first time. People like John Muir were influential in the creation of many parks, however his idea of “pristine wilderness” has intentionally prevented Indigenous groups from living on and utilizing traditional sites, even though they were built on land taken from Indigenous peoples. Colonization in the Americas created inequitable power structures that limit Indigenous access to their land and disrespect their rights and livelihoods. Outdoor recreation has been historically marketed as a hobby for white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, affluent people.
A financial accessibility gap exists in the outdoor industry, as many activities like climbing and camping require expensive equipment. Physical accessibility issues are also paramount, and even seemingly small solutions like installing handrails or ramps in parks can create a more welcoming atmosphere.
We can all help ensure outdoor spaces can be explored and enjoyed by wider audiences. Start by learning more about the history of the outdoors. Live your values by contacting elected representatives to advocate for inclusive policies for recreation, as well as conservation policies and climate action. Call further attention to the economic value of nature by supporting sustainable outdoor tourism that benefits local communities and environments, which can be a big economic boost. Follow and support diverse outdoor explorers and activists!
Indigenous peoples are some of the best stewards of our natural environment with traditional and modern conservation practices and respect for all life. Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation who describes Indigenous knowledge and practices in her book Braiding Sweetgrass. Dr. Kimmerer challenges Eurocentric views of nature by showing how we all can learn from the plants and animals around us. Repairing respectful, loving relationships with nature can help people enjoy and sustain Mother Earth for today, tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow.
We are far from alone in this fight! Mission-driven organizations leverage their platforms to effect equitable change and advocate for environmental protection. Our partner Patagonia Provisions makes foods that are a part of the solution — nutritious, ethical, regenerative, and ready for life on-the-go. On hikes, during outdoor activities or in a dorm room with no stove, anyone anywhere can sustain themselves to adventure onward. And while you’re at it, be sure to Leave No Trace, the fitting name of our partner organization today, that works to sustain healthy, vibrant natural lands by addressing damaged trails and natural areas, polluted water, at risk wildlife, destructive fires, crowded parks and the disconnect between youth and nature.
This challenge will help us to support, expand and fight for thriving, inclusive natural spaces that belong to and are available for all.
Is there a destination that you have always wanted to explore, whether near or far? It could be a nearby old growth forest, the ocean you yearn to dip your toes into, a desert perch at sunset, or a mountain trek on the other side of the world. Or perhaps there is a specific activity like rock climbing, surfing or biking you want to try in a new spot. The options for outdoor adventure are endless, so dream big!
- Research an outdoor location and activity.
- Consider why adventure would be meaningful to you.
- Find some photos online that capture your vision, and give you a good idea of what’s in store for you
Outdoor adventure can/should/must be universally accessible, though that is not always the case. Many inspiring organizations are working to reinforce, champion and advocate for this goal.
- Brown Girl Outdoor World provides tangible solutions to diversifying outdoor recreation.
- Outdoor Afro celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.
- Diversify Outdoors promotes diversity in outdoor spaces where people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and others have been historically underrepresented.
These are just a few of the movements changing the face of conservation in the US and leading the way for inclusion in outdoor recreation, nature, and land preservation.
Share a favorite post. Why did it resonate with you? How has it inspired you? Regram the image on Instagram with a caption including one way to expand accessibility of the outdoors, you could even tag @TurningGreenOrg, the account you explored for the challenge, and friends and family who may be interested!
“It’s about the journey, not the destination.” Your destination is important, as is how you go about getting there. Consider gear, transportation, food, even the contents of your backpack. Whether you love hiking, biking, climbing, surfing or other outdoor activities, there are many ways to make it truly sustainable! When adventuring, Leave No Trace in the places you visit, so everyone can enjoy the natural world for generations to come.
It’s adventure time!
Are you ready for an adventure? Think about what you’ve learned so far about how to reduce your ecological footprint, and let’s go!
Pick your destination. Make it a local (even hyper local) adventure you can reach safely and easily. Write out a plan. If the outdoors aren’t accessible to you, consider virtually visiting a national park or other outdoor destination. Read up on and incorporate the seven principles of Leave No Trace into your plan. If your trip is virtual, imagine what gear and supplies you’d bring to the place you chose. Consider the following:
- Set an intention before you head out on your journey.
- Follow all Covid-19 health and safety protocols and local guidelines.
- How are you getting there: walking, biking, driving, carpooling?
- Are your snacks organic? Can you make/pack your own?
- How will you lessen waste? Perhaps a reusable Klean Kanteen bottle or food canister to stay hydrated and nourished without plastic!
- What is your attire and gear made of? Where is it from? Was it made in a sustainable and ethical way?
- Is the destination open for visitors, safe to go, requiring any extra precautions?
Let the adventure begin! Remember to take photos, reflect on the scenery, enjoy the outdoors, and leave no trace! Share with any social media platforms you have, with family and friends and tag @turninggreen!