Inclusion. Equity. Access. These three words are hotter than ever and individuals and communities across the country are advocating and striving for all three in the outdoors.
Historically, the perception of leaders in the outdoor industry was that those who participated in adventure sports and backcountry recreation were white males. Ad campaigns were often led by white males targeting a specific demographic. Over the years, the face of the outdoors has begun to change. Women have more of a presence and slowly the outdoor industry is beginning to diversify. That diversification is being led by underrepresented groups across the nation who have a deep appreciation for the natural world and who want to see people with similar identities represented on the trail, in a magazine, and at the helm of a large company. They are taking control of the narrative and sharing their stories.
Sometimes, all it takes for a child to become inspired is to see a photo of someone in nature who looks like them.
What do “nature” and the “outdoors” really mean and how can we foster a love and appreciation for them?
America’s demographic statistics show that the population is moving towards a majority-minority. If the minority will soon be the majority, then it’s extremely important to introduce underrepresented minorities to the outdoors and to foster a love for the land.
Without a love for nature, there will be few people in the future who will appreciate and advocate for public lands.
When we think about the outdoors and nature, we often think about national and state parks such as Yosemite and Mount Diablo State Park. Often national and state parks charge an entrance fee or a parking fee and are located outside of a city. However, there are plenty of parks scattered across the country, many of them in cities. I recently had a conversation with Scott Briscoe, a Patagonia employee, educator, and a member of the first African-American team to attempt a summit of Denali (for the full story of Expedition Denali, check out the feature-length documentary, An American Ascent). He shared his philosophy on changing how we classify and think about nature. Large or small urban green spaces such as a garden or a park are slices of nature and often much more proximate to people. Cultivating a love for wild spaces can start in a person’s backyard or neighborhood.
What can we do as outdoor enthusiasts to help build inclusivity in the outdoors?
I’ve been asking many people this question lately and have heard a variety of responses.
There is no single answer but we can all start by being aware.
Aware of the history of the land we’re on and the Native people who are deeply connected to it. Find out the indigenous place name and use the appropriate geotag the next time you check in on Facebook. Did you know that in 2015, after almost a century, the tallest peak in North America, Denali, was finally restored to its indigenous name meaning “the high one” or “the great one?” Language, culture, and history are all connected to the land.
We must also be aware of our own actions and perceptions and how we might be including or excluding others. Are People of Color on leadership teams in outdoor companies? If not, encourage them to apply and encourage leaders to work on diversifying their teams. We also need to be aware of our own identities and be open to encouraging and supporting people in experiencing the outdoors.
As part of the Shoestring Warrior series, I interviewed Grace Anderson, an educator, organizer, activist and outdoor enthusiast. Read the full interview here. She shared with me her thoughts on what we can do as members of the outdoor community to address participation barriers.
We need to make our work intersectional. No one walks into the outdoors without the identities that they carry on an everyday basis.
Organizations to Check Out
People of all races, abilities, ages, and sexual orientation spend time outdoors. I’ve learned about many inspiring organizations advocating for and working towards inclusion in the outdoors. This isn’t an exhaustive list. Feel free to add others to the list in the comments below!
- Avarna Group – “Insights and resources for a more socially and environmentally just world.”
- Brothers of Climbing – “BOC is an organization tackling diversity in rock climbing. We believe there should be more inclusion, better representation, and a tighter community.”
- Brown Girls Climb – “Brown Girls Climb aims to promote and increase visibility of diversity in climbing by establishing a community of climbers of color, encouraging leadership opportunities for female climbers of color, and by creating inclusive opportunities to climb and explore for under represented communities.”
- Brown People Camping – “@Brownpeoplecamping is a social media initiative that utilizes personal narratives and digital storytelling to promote greater diversity in our public lands and outdoors community.”
- Flash Foxy – “Flash Foxy was created in 2014 to celebrate women climbing with women and to be a place where women can come to feel inspired by and connected to each other.”
- Get Out Stay Out – “Get Out, Stay Out invites kids to run, play, and discover themselves in an outdoor environment. Through experiential education we aim to connect low-income kids of indigenous migrant backgrounds to the “outdoor culture”.”
- GirlVentures – “GirlVentures inspires girls to lead through outdoor adventure, inner discovery, and collective action.”
- Indigenous Geotags – ”Indigenous Geotags is an environmental justice organization and resource dedicated to decolonizing and indigenizing America’s public lands.”
- Indigenous Women Hike – “Indigenous Women Hike is a collective of Paiute women on a journey to reconnect with our landscape and heal our bodies through healthy lifestyle changes.”
- Latino Outdoors – “We bring cultura into the outdoor narrative and connect Latino communities and leadership with nature and outdoor experiences. We connect familias and youth with nature, engage and inspire Latino leadership, empower communities to explore and share their stories in defining the Latino Outdoors identity.”
- LatinXhikers – “LatinXhikers is an online platform where Luz and Adriana use storytelling to inspire, bring awareness and promote more diversity and inclusion in the outdoors.”
- Melanin Base Camp – “Keep the stoke high and join us as we work together to increase representation and opportunities for People of Color in outdoor adventure sports.”
- NativesOutdoors – “We work directly in the intersection of the outdoor industry, indigenous people, and conservation.“
- Outdoor Afro – “Outdoor Afro has become the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature. We help people take better care of themselves, our communities, and our planet!“
- Outthere Adventures – “The goal is simple: empower queer young people through their connection with the natural world.”
- Queer Nature – “Queer Nature is a Colorado-based project dedicated to cultivating earth-based queer community through traditional skill-building.”
- TheGreatOutchea – “The Great Outchea celebrates and promotes people of color exploring the great outdoors.”
- The Venture Out Project – “We believe in…Bringing the queer community together to experience the beauty and fun of the wilderness.“
- Unlikely Hikers – “Unlikely Hikers is a diverse and inclusive Instagram community featuring the underrepresented outdoorsperson.”
Articles and Podcasts Spreading Inclusion
Interested in this topic and want to hear more about how individuals and communities are taking control of the outdoor narrative? Here are just a few of the inspiring stories out there!
- Outside (Magazine) – “The New Faces of Adventure” – Narratives from athletes and activists working towards creating a more inclusive outdoor community.
- Wild Ideas Worth Living (Podcast) – “074 Karen Ramos & Adriana Garcia – Starting a Movement to Encourage Diversity in the Outdoors” – An interview with the founders of Get Out, Stay Out and LatinX Hikers.
- She Explores (Podcast) – Through the podcast and website, She Explores has shared over 300 women’s stories, photographs, and artwork.
There’s a wild and wonderful world out there! Let’s work together to make the outdoor community an inclusive environment that everyone feels welcome in!