by Ari Kosel
Ari has worked as an Instructor at the Oregon basecamp since 2015 and began writing blog articles for Outward Bound last year. In this post she shares resources for how we can all recreate responsibly in 2020 while prioritizing community health and working to improve inclusion and diversity in the outdoors.
In the midst of a pandemic and social movement, time outdoors is as important as ever for maintaining physical and mental health. Yet with many important factors to consider, ranging from preventing the spread of Covid-19 to decolonizing the outdoors, how do we spend time outside responsibly?
Fortunately, the #RecreateResponsibly Coalition has come together to lay out some easy guidelines to help us navigate how to recreate safely during these unprecedented times. The coalition, comprised of organizations such as REI, the Outdoor Alliance, Leave No Trace and others, has launched a national campaign to provide information and toolkits on how to get outside while being conscious of Covid-19.
Many of the guidelines draw from familiar ideas used by outdoor enthusiasts for years, making it easier to think of ways these tools can be applied to our current climate. I took a look over their guidelines and agree it’s a great place to start, especially when considering Covid-19 precautions.
Yet I believe recreating responsibly right now means more than taking the appropriate health precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Recreating responsibly also means working to dismantle white supremacy within the outdoor industry.
This work begins with us taking steps to understand the historical context of how we got where we are today, and from there taking actions to make the outdoors anti-racist. The system we live in took centuries to build, and so dismantling it is not going to happen overnight. Like an ultramarathon or summit attempt, this work requires ongoing strength, dedication, and perseverance fueled by the knowledge that the end goal is very much worth the hard work. More than that, it is our responsibility.
Know Before You Go
Know before you go, a phrase often used in avalanche safety, is a valuable place to start when it comes to recreating responsibly. As always, it’s important to research where you are planning on going and to take into consideration what Covid-19 regulations are in place. Be sure to visit the websites and/or call the offices of the areas you are planning to visit in order to get the most up-to-date information on current public health precautions and recommendations.
In addition, consider broadening your research on the areas you’ll be spending time in. One place to start is with the Native Lands app. I recommend using this awesome educational tool to help you learn more about the people whose traditional land you will be visiting. The app and website provide maps of Native lands around the world and include links to tribal websites, copies of treaties, and info regarding land acknowledgment.
You can download the app on your phone or access it online.
Why is this important right now? The Black Lives Matter movement has increased our public awareness of systemic racism and white supremacy and how it impacts every aspect of our lives. The outdoor industry in the United States is no exception and has a long history of white supremacy dating back to the conquest of Native lands by white colonists and settlers. It’s important that we acknowledge the land we recreate on today as the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples, and by doing so reflect on our history of colonization and what it means to occupy space on Indigenous lands. This is one way to work towards reversing the intentional erasure of Indigenous peoples from our national narrative and to honor their enduring relationship with their traditional lands.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Planning for a trip has always required prep time. In addition to researching everything from what gear you’ll need, weather conditions, and social distancing precautions, I encourage you to take some time to dive deeper into the history of white supremacy and how it manifests in the outdoor industry. Part of planning ahead can include preparing to confront your own privilege, as well as your conscious and unconscious biases and how they show up while recreating. There are numerous great articles and resources out there to help you in this process, but here are a few ideas of how to start.
- 11 Terms You Should Know to Better Understand Structural Racism
- Check out https://www.diversifyoutdoors.com. #DiversifyOutdoors is a coalition of social media influencers – bloggers, athletes, activists, and entrepreneurs – who share the goal of promoting diversity in outdoor spaces where BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other diverse identities have historically been marginalized and silenced. Their website is packed with awesome resources to help guide your learning
- https://www.melaninbasecamp.com is another great resource and blog platform featuring firsthand accounts from Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ people who love the outdoors
- Check out this relevant webinar featuring conversations and learnings from members of the outdoor and conservation communities: Connecting the Dots: COVID-19, JEDI, & Conservation/the Outdoors
Respect Other Users
As you get out there hiking, running, paddling, climbing, and enjoying time in your local public spaces, be sure to respect other users. Though the outdoors are often viewed as a place to decompress and regain a sense of wellness, they have historically not been welcoming to marginalized communities. We have witnessed this recently with high profile examples like the Central Park Birdwatching Incident. When you get outside, continue to practice social distancing and follow public health orders enacted in your area. Continue to follow proper trail etiquette and be stewards of our lands, and most importantly continue to be aware of and acknowledge oppression when it is present in the outdoors. Work actively to shift it.
As Gloria Liu, a featured editor for Outside Magazine, recently shared “The outdoors community, being mostly white, has had the privilege of being able to avoid openly discussing social issues for a long time. The work of fighting racism in the world and within ourselves is deeply uncomfortable. But if there’s one other universal characteristic of people who love the outdoors, it’s that we voluntarily wade into discomfort with enthusiasm and resolve. It’s time for us to channel that energy into something far more important.”
I do want to recognize that conversations about social justice in the context of the outdoor industry are not new. Many people have been channeling their energy into this work for years, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folx. As a white, cis, able bodied woman who is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and new to this work, I am not an expert and this list of resources is far from exhaustive. I know I will continue to make mistakes in my efforts to be anti-racist. Yet learning from mistakes is part of the process, and I hope to do so with humility and openness. I welcome your feedback in the comments below.
Thank you for taking the time to read through some of the ideas and resources that have been valuable to my personal growth and learning. I hope they are useful for you as well, and if so I encourage you to share them widely.
List of Resources
- Recreate Responsibly
- Native Lands
- 11 Terms You Should Know to Better Understand Structural Racism
- Diversify Outdoors
- Melanin Base Camp
- Avarna Group Webinar: Connecting the Dots: COVID-19, JEDI, & Conservation/the Outdoors
Photo and Image Credit; in order as seen in the article