Black History Month for Outdoorists

We often hear “the outdoors are for all” – but did you know the National Park Service was segregated until 1945? Our community has been learning and unlearning so much about what we were taught (or weren’t at all), and Black History Month provides an opportunity to deepen our historical understandings, reshape narratives, and move forward towards more equitable futures. 

This February, we’re celebrating Black History Month by learning about Black outdoor historical figures and today’s generation of Black outdoorists bringing revolution, advocacy, art and joy into nature. 

Dive in below to get started with articles, films, books, podcasts, social media and more: 

Folks to stay tuned to all month:

  • Laura Edmonson’s Instagram story highlights are always a gift to learn from, and her Black History Month lessons are no exception. Start with this post, then buckle up and dive into her resources on history, the nuance of language, AAVE and more.
  • Outdoor Afro is highlighting Black historical figures in the outdoors, historic places for recreation, and recent achievements by Black individuals related to the outdoors. Here’s the first post in their series to get you started––and be sure to check out their new Empower by Nature collection with Parks Project.
  • James Edward Mills, aka Joy Trip Project, is doing a month-long project he’s calling the #JoyTripBlackHistoryProject2021. From names you might recognize like Dred Scott to Black historical figures you may not know (yet) like poet Phillis Wheatley Peters.
  • Chelsea Murphy aka She Colors Nature is hosting a research and journaling prompt series celebrating Black women where she invites participants to take a prompt, do their own Googling, then spend time privately reflecting. Get started with Day One here.
  • Noami Grevemberg has an ongoing BHM highlight sharing her experiences as a Black immigrant, historical lessons, spotlights on Black futures and more. 
  • Follow the #BlackOutdoorJoy hashtag on Instagram, created by nature photographer Gina Danza.

BLACK HISTORY AND FUTURES IN THE OUTDOOR COMMUNITY ARTICLES:

BOOKS + STUDIES TO READ:

EDUCATION EVENTS:

  • “Join us for an uncomfortable conversation about the N word” is a virtual event hosted by Pocket Media, Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Media for Inclusion on February 16th. The panel includes Teresa Baker, Alison Mariella Désir, Carolyn Finney, Ph.D., Devin Dabney and Dhani Jones. Get registered here.
  • Slim Pickins Outfitters is hosting a virtual panel discussion on February 17th, in collaboration with the Outbound Collective, Wondercamp and HOKA ONE ONE. This event will be moderated by Latria Graham and include ASL interpretation. 
 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SlimPickins Outfitters (@spoutfitter)

  • The California Recreate Responsibly Coalition Chapter has produced a timely webinar series for February: “Building an Inclusive Outdoors: Honoring Black History Month.” The series features two separate webinars:  
    – Tuesday, February 9: The More you Snow: Stories of American History in Snow Sports
    – Tuesday, February 23: From Untold to Bold: Highlighting Black Stories in the Outdoors
    Register here for these two events!
  • If you happen to live in PA, check out these Black History Month bike, jog, garden and Zumba events (both in-person and virtual) hosted by Venture Outdoors in collaboration with Black-led organizations in historically significant Black spaces.

WATCH + LISTEN: 

ORGS TO KNOW:

ADDITIONAL ANTI-RACISM RESOURCES:

These resources from around our community are a mere starting point for learning about the past, present and future of the Black community in the outdoors. If you’ve got a Black History Month resource we’re missing, send it to us and we’ll add it to the growing list!

As we celebrate, learn and unlearn this month, let’s remember that Black history and futures aren’t just a moment in time on our calendars––justice and anti-racism are a lens through which we should constantly be viewing and shaping our advocacy work and lives. Onward, together.

To Our AAPI Community

Hey everyone, it’s Vivian here as part of the OAP team. Lately, you may have heard the news of the violent hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and I wanted to share a few of my thoughts. As I learned more about them, I couldn’t help but think ‘why’ – why are these people doing this? why are they targeting elders? why are these stories not in mainstream media? – just why. 

In these last couple of years, I’ve struggled with my identity as an Asian American woman and where I belonged. I feel like an “in-between”,  juggling growing up in a western society while being taught with eastern values. Trying to be “Asian enough” for my community, but also “white enough” for the white community. I’ve had my fair share of falling victim to racist remarks and microaggressions like always being seen as foreign, being called “chink” or “open your eyes”, the classic “where are you from” question, folks not taking my struggles seriously because they believe in the model minority myth, assuming my cultural identity, mocking my language, being fetishized, and the list goes on.

Like many communities of color, Asian American history has been largely erased in America. With stereotypes and the model minority myth, Asians have been silenced and forgotten among media and even in anti-racism and DEI talks. Our struggles have taken a backseat. As @steveyeun recently said, “Sometimes I wonder if the Asian American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but nobody else is thinking about you.”

I feel like there’s always this battle among communities of color of who have struggled “the most” or “the worst”. The model minority myth was created to falsely paint a picture that an ethnic group can “overcome” racism and further create a divide among people of color. As 2020 has shown us, what we need to do is listen, learn, unlearn, speak up, and stand together with our BIPOC brothers and sisters against systems of oppression and supremacy that America is. 

So on behalf of the OAP team, we hear you, we see you, and we stand in solidarity with the AAPI community 💛

Advocacy Updates: Today is a New Beginning

Outdoorists, today is a new beginning.

The last OAP newsletter was intended to hit your inbox two weeks ago, on January 6th––and every day since then, we’ve opened up the draft, stared at it, attempted to focus, and ended up in a fury of doomscrolling instead. Today, as our country prepares to officially inaugurate our next President today, we’re committing to hitting send and moving towards good changes ahead. 

As the first weeks of 2021 have shown us, we are not out of the woods––we are still deep in it––but the transition of power today is a major fork in the trail, pointing us towards a brighter tomorrow. It’s going to take all of us, and everything we’ve got within, to get through this time and to move forward. We can do this, together.

Amidst the chaotic news cycles of the last few weeks (and months? and entire last year?), a lot has happened in the outdoor and environmental spaces––and as we step into a new era for outdoor advocacy, we want you to feel informed, empowered and ready to take action.

Outdoorsy news you oughta know right now––this week is a doozy, lace up your boots:

Phew, that’s a lot–and a wrap for this week. Stay safe out there, and take extra care of yourself + the community around you. Don’t let this moment pass without taking a pause to reflect on how hard you’ve worked the last four years, and how much more work we have ahead. We’re proud of you.

Got the beta on an outdoor advocacy issue, event, or rad content we ought to know about? Give us the scoop: team@outdooradvocacy.com – we want to hear from you and amplify your nooks of advocacy + the outdoors!


Every other week, we give you a download on the latest outdoor advocacy and community happenings – sign up for the e-mail newsletter or subscribe below and never miss another Advocacy Update when it drops!

Balloons

Advocacy Updates: It’s Our ONE YEAR Outdoor Advocacy Anniversary!

Feliz cumpleaños, to us!

Can you believe it’s been one year–tomorrow–since we officially launched Outdoor Advocacy Project? We sparked this community 364 days ago, and jettisoned into a whirlwind of advocacy and creativity.

Remember the way we felt the day of Climate Rally 2020 in January? We joined hands to march through the streets of Denver, demanding that the outdoor industry be held accountable to the intersections of climate and social justice. I remember our booming collective voice, the power of all our bodies coming together, the energy of a community sharing a rallying cry.

Who knew that sense of advocacy togetherness would become such forbidden fruit? So much changed, so quickly for our budding organization and the world around us–but like the desert in drought, we adapted. We slowed down, transitioning into survival mode, and buckled up for a rough ride.

Even through the darkness of this last year, we’ve accomplished much you oughta be proud of, including: 

  • We built a community with over 12,000 outdoor advocates within 24 hours of launching––now we’re at 23K!
     
  • Co-organized the Climate Rally 2020, marching from Outdoor Retailer to the Denver Capitol with 500 activists.
     
  • Led social media strategy during the nationwide launch of the #RecreateResponsibly coalition, which has generated over 3.2 billion impressions.
     
  • Generated over 35,000 signatures to stop oil and gas leasing in Moab –– and it worked!
     
  • Strategized social for the 2020 #VoteTheOutdoors campaign with Outdoor Industry Association.
     
  • Committed our name to policy-related sign on letters that support the issues we identified as crucial the organization, including:
    • Letter to Senate and House NR Committees on JEDI Recreation Priorities (Our first official action as an organization!)
    • Coalition letter to reject the nomination of William Perry Pendley for Director of the Bureau of Land Management
    • Business Statement on Need to Protect the Arctic Refuge
    • Letter to Sec. Bernhardt to reinstate protections for LGBTQ employees
    • Sign on letter in support of the SOAR Act 
       
  • Hired our first staffer (we love you, Vivian)!

It’s been a hard, dark year–and we’re grateful for every ounce of energy you’ve lent to this outdoor advocacy movement while navigating your own life’s rollercoaster. Thank you for being part of this community. Here’s to another, bigger, better year ahead.

That’s a wrap for this week. Go write a letter to protect the Arctic today. Then get out there (safely and Recreate Responsibly), and tag us as you do good on your outdoorsy adventures: #outdooradvocacy!

Got the beta on an outdoor advocacy issue, event, or rad content we ought to know about? Give us the scoop: team@outdooradvocacy.com – we want to hear from you and amplify your nooks of advocacy + the outdoors!


Every other week, we give you a download on the latest outdoor advocacy and community happenings – sign up for the e-mail newsletter or subscribe below and never miss another Advocacy Update when it drops!

Hiking boots

Advocacy Updates: Outdoorists, It’s Been A Doozy

Hola, outdoor advocates.

It’s been one h*ck of a year –– and it’s hard to believe our one-year anniversary is coming up on December 10th. So much has happened (or, often, not happened) in the last 365 days. Remember when we organized a 500+ person climate rally in Denver? It feels like so long ago that we gathered in person to march and raise our voices together.

But that’s the thing about time: it flies. Through a pandemic, social injustices, civil uprising, and the most important election of our lifetime–time has flown. So while we take a collective sigh of relief that this calendar year is ending, we must ask: what’s coming next?

We’re using the rest of 2020 to gear up and develop strategic planning to support the work ahead – we’re looking forward to becoming more proactive, creative and joyous in this work. This work we do is hard, but it’s beautiful too. We hope you find time this holiday season to reflect on all the work you’ve done, take a deep breath, and get energized for what’s to come.

Next week, our bi-weekly newsletter officially re-launches. Until then, here are some outdoorsy things you ought to know:

That’s a wrap for this week. Get out there (safely and Recreate Responsibly), and tag us as you do good on your outdoorsy adventures: #outdooradvocacy!

Got the beta on an outdoor advocacy issue, event, or rad content we ought to know about? Give us the scoop: team@outdooradvocacy.com – we want to hear from you and amplify your nooks of advocacy + the outdoors!


Every other week, we give you a download on the latest outdoor advocacy and community happenings – sign up for the e-mail newsletter or subscribe below and never miss another Advocacy Update when it drops!

We’re Hiring: Social Media Internship

Our tiny team of outdoor advocates is hiring a social media intern to help support our consulting and client work, as well as Outdoor Advocacy Project’s own social media platforms. We’re seeking a social media savvy advocate who is interested in the intersections of the outdoor, environmental, and communications spaces.

Social Media Intern Job Responsibilities:

  • Scheduling of content on various social media accounts using Hootsuite.
  • Support the team brainstorm campaign and project ideas.
  • Analytics tracking and reporting.
  • Monitor and engage social media comments and community.
  • Support newsletter and email development using MailChimp.
  • Graphic design support using Canva.
  • Track and manage projects.
  • Help us get outdoorists stoked on learning and taking action.

Social Media Intern Qualifications / Skills:

  • You are: detail-oriented, quick-witted, fluent in gifs, excited to nerd out on political issues. 
  • Proficient in social media platforms including but not limited to:
    • Instagram
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
  • Experienced with these platforms:
    • Hootsuite* (highest priority)
    • Canva
    • MailChimp
  • Interested in outdoor advocacy, environmentalism, politics, community-based marketing.

Compensation: $15/hour, approximately 5-10 hours per week. Please let us know if you are interested in receiving university credit for this internship. 

Apply by sending your resume, LinkedIn profile (optional), and a brief introduction to why you want to work with Outdoor Advocacy Project, your experience with Hootsuite, Canva and/or MailChimp, and what areas of outdoor advocacy you’re most fired up about to team@outdooradvocacy.com. Applications accepted through August 3rd. 

Note: Most of our team is located in Salt Lake City, UT, and while we’d love to have a local intern who can join us for iced coffee and afternoon hikes (once such activities are sanctioned again), finding the right candidate is our priority. Remote applicants welcome!

Advocacy Updates: Meet the Great American Outdoors Act

We have good news, outdoor advocates!

Outdoorists–and the world at large–could really use some good news right about now. You’ve likely heard the ruckus around Trump’s tweet about finally fully funding LWCF (despite his budget proposal that cuts funding by 97%). We’re giving this shady behavior a pass, because while these actions are clearly driven by the upcoming elections, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to fund our public lands and parks.

Here’s the deal: with the sudden push for Land and Water Conservation Fund full funding, another public lands bill swooped into the mix: the Restore Our Parks Act (ROPA). This bill is all about addressing the $20 billion in deferred maintenance for our national parks–but NPS parks aren’t the only public lands with a backlog, so advocacy groups rallied to get funding for National Forests, BLM, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Education included too. And we succeeded!

This leads us to the Great American Outdoors Act–the new package including both permanent funding for LWCF and funding for ROPA. There is strong bipartisan support for the Great American Outdoors Act, but we need to keep the pressure on our senators to support and push it across the finish line.

What can you do? Get educated and take action via our friends at Outdoor Alliance.

Other outdoorsy things you ought to know:

That’s a wrap for this week. Get out there this week, and tag us as you do good on your outdoorsy adventures: #outdooradvocacy!

Got the beta on an outdoor advocacy issue, event, or rad content we ought to know about? Give us the scoop: team@outdooradvocacy.com – we want to hear from you and amplify your nooks of advocacy + the outdoors!


Every other week, we give you a download on the latest outdoor advocacy and community happenings – sign up for the e-mail newsletter or subscribe below and never miss another Advocacy Update when it drops!

How to Talk to Climate Skeptics – and Understanding Who They Are

It feels really good to have people agree with you. In fact, it feels so good that we tend to only surround ourselves with people who have the same viewpoints as us. But when we come across someone who doesn’t agree with us, our natural instinct is to become immediately defensive and double down on our own opinions. It’s challenging to have conversations outside of our comfortable social bubbles, but to fight climate change, we need support from more than just the people who look like us and talk like us. In this article, we hope to provide you with a better understanding of why people think the way they do and equip you with some tools to engage in a constructive climate conversation. 

We all agree with each other more than we think.

Most people generally do believe in climate change – that fact probably isn’t very surprising. The data actually tell us that only about 16% of Americans don’t believe in climate change. Right now you might be thinking you’ve got a pretty good idea of who to blame for that 16% (other than Obama; thanks Obama). But as it turns out, we’re pretty bad at trying to predict who the climate believers and skeptics are. Us believers might assume that skeptics aren’t as highly educated or informed, but that’s not the case: general attitudes about global warming are unrelated to scientific literacy and education. You might be thinking, “what about… Republicans?” Wrong again! Data from multiple surveys actually show that the majority of Republicans believe in climate change. 

Why are people resistant to climate change policies even if they believe the science?

If majorities of both Republicans and Democrats believe in climate change, then what’s holding us back from coming together on climate issues? The answer, per usual, is each other. Republicans might not be skeptical of climate change, but they are skeptical of Democrats – and Democrats, in turn, are skeptical of Republicans. Psychologists have repeatedly shown that individuals tend to favor party over policy. That is, voters are more likely to support policies that are put forward by their own political party and reactively reject policies that are put forward by the opposing party, with little regard for the policy itself.  Unfortunately, these partisan allegiances seem to extend to climate policies as well, with Republicans opposing climate policies in large part because they are often proposed by Democrats. 

But there’s hope in this big ol’ mess. People cannot and should not be reduced to simply “Republicans” and “Democrats” – we are all so much more than that. And a path forward is right in front of us: if we’re able to distance ourselves from political labels and traps, we can uncover our commonalities and focus on solving this gigantic problem together. Of course, this is easier said than done. But a better understanding of the human mind and motivations for why people oppose climate policy can help us empathize with others, and offers us a much better chance at a constructive conversation.

Cognitive dissonance and the psychology of climate policy resistance

Now for the fun part: Let’s learn about a neat little psychological trick that, if you’re like me, will have you questioning nearly every decision you’ve ever made and shake you to your core: cognitive dissonance theory! 

Let’s unpack this theory with a simple example: Chiara’s a huge BBQ fan. She loves herself a fat slab of ribs with a side of corn dogs. As a scientist, she’s well aware that the meat industry is a huge contributor to climate change, but every week she heads to the butcher anyway. That mental discomfort she feels when a belief she holds (knowing that eating a lot of meat is bad for the planet) contradicts her actions (eating meat anyway) is what we refer to as cognitive dissonance. And people hate being in a state of dissonance. It’s sort of like being super hungry. It’s uncomfortable, we hate it, and the longer it persists the more motivated we are to get rid of it.

So how can Chiara reduce her dissonance? She can either change her actions to align with her beliefs, or she can change her beliefs to align with her actions. The first option means she has to quit eating meat, but she really doesn’t want to do that. The second option requires her to change her underlying beliefs about eating meat. To justify her actions, she can tell herself things like “my meat consumption won’t make a difference in the long run” or “I drive a Prius to work so I don’t need to stop eating meat”. If she’s feeling a particularly large amount of dissonance, Chiara might even seek out information that claims the meat industry isn’t contributing to climate change, or even that climate change itself isn’t real. By altering her beliefs about climate change, Chiara can keep eating meat without experiencing dissonance. And just like that, we’ve taken one of the authors of this article and turned her into a climate change skeptic (don’t worry, she’s not). 

This theory is powerful because it not only explains why Republicans are more likely to oppose climate change policy but also why anyone else whose values or actions are discordant with climate policy proposals might oppose them. For example, consider the case of Frank, a landowner in northern Texas who’s fallen on hard times. He’s approached by an oil and gas company to install a natural gas well on his property in exchange for royalties that will allow him to provide for his family. Though he was previously sympathetic to climate policy, Frank now finds himself in an elevated state of dissonance, where his family’s livelihood is intimately tied to the fossil fuel industry. To reduce his dissonance, Frank will likely start to downplay his beliefs around climate change.

An important takeaway here is that people who are acting to reduce dissonance by justifying their actions or a choice they made aren’t intentionally lying to you. Rather, they’re lying to themselves. This can all come off as very condescending, so it’s important to keep in mind that we are all guilty of this same conduct. For instance, you might really care about a farmer’s ability to support themselves, but then find yourself in a state of dissonance when that farmer’s choice to frack on their land clashes with your stance on environmentalism. To reduce dissonance, you’ll recharacterize the farmer as an ignorant and greedy opportunist. This doesn’t mean that you don’t understand the farmer’s financial motives, it just means you’re making it easier for yourself to sleep at night when you later vote to remove his access to that type of revenue. 

Now that we can understand a bit more about where people are coming from, and recognize what we have in common, what are the key ingredients to a constructive conversation?


Do it face to face. People have better first impressions, less conflict, feel more emotionally connected, and are more vulnerable when having conversations in-person rather than online. 

Paint a picture of a more positive future. Most narratives around climate change solutions paint a painful picture of a difficult future that will require substantial individual sacrifices. But if we do things right, the changes we make to address climate change could lead to a healthier, less expensive, more equitable, and guilt-free future. And while we understand why you want to convince Uncle Joe that climate change is scary and real, focusing on positive solutions is more effective in engaging people. It’s also critical in breaking down the cognitive dissonance that arises when we tell people that if they care about climate change, they’ll have to settle for a lower quality of life. Instead, focus on how policy and economic shifts could give us a better life even in a world undergoing climate change. We highly recommend listening to Ezra Klein’s conversation with Saul Griffith on this topic.

Leave party politics at the door. Like we said above, people tend to interpret information as positive or negative depending on which party presents it, so the less political you can remain the better. Further, using language like carbon “offsets” instead of carbon “taxes” can make people more amenable to your argument.

Use personal anecdotes and story-telling. Using stories, anecdotes, or narratives is an effective way of communicating science with non-experts, and local stories can make people want to engage more. Content presented in this format is also easier to understand.

Demonstrate vulnerability and show that making mistakes is okay. We need to do a much better job of normalizing the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes and change our minds – we’re all human! Most importantly, we must learn to forgive people when they do admit a mistake, and allow them space to change their minds. Attacking others for their views will only cause them to become more entrenched. Be vulnerable yourself; maybe share a story about a time you experienced dissonance and justified a poor choice, but were later were able to admit to yourself that you were wrong.

Show empathy and actively listen. Remember that you need to have a conversation with this person rather than direct your best monologue at them. Take a breath and prepare to actively listen. Remember that you have other things in common with them and that you both have reasons to hold the opinions you do (see all of the above). Going on a tirade that makes the other person feel steamrolled, misunderstood, or patronized will not be productive. People typically stick with the common opinion of their social group, so to reach someone, it’s important to maintain a positive relationship with them. Treat them with respect and kindness and show gratitude when they are willing to engage in a conversation with you. 

Talk about how strong of a consensus there is about climate change among scientists. Simply talking about how almost all climate scientists (97% to be exact) agree that climate change is real, pressing, and human-caused has been shown to increase climate change acceptance across party lines. 

Provide a brief mechanistic explanation of the greenhouse effect. Giving a brief explanation of the greenhouse effect increases climate change acceptance. You can even show them a fun video with Bill Nye. If you want to explain it yourself, here’s our two-liner: We’ve thrown our carbon cycle out of whack by burning fossil fuels, which means that we are now releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Excess CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat from the sun — instead of heat from the sun bouncing off the Earth and back out of our atmosphere, it bounces right back toward us, which causes global temperatures to rise. Check out our Climate Science 101 article for more, or if the person you’re talking to has misconceptions about the science of climate change, check out our article on addressing specific climate change misconceptions

<strong>Shane Schwikert</strong>
Shane Schwikert

Shane is a teacher, researcher, and data enthusiast at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he wailed his way to a PhD in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Science. His hobbies range from dirt biking to backcountry skiing to gold panning, and he is an avid rock collector known for assembling his treasures in strategic piles throughout his apartment.

Chiara Forrester
Chiara Forrester

Chiara is happiest when she’s in the mountains on skis, a bike, or running. She also loves Ariana Grande (117 hours this year, thanks Spotify), making dinner with friends, and laughing too loudly at her own jokes. An ecologist who’s passionate about science communication and increasing diversity in STEM, Chiara is currently a PhD candidate in Boulder, CO, studying alpine plant ecology, undergraduate education, and the use of science in federal land management.

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

ED-OP: Staying Resilient + Hopeful in a Time of Climate Crisis

It’s a daunting task to find the right words to fit our current moment in ecological history. Never before have the joint fates of humanity and the natural world been at higher risk. Never before has the discussion around climate action and our relationship to nature changed so rapidly in the face of such immediate risk. We grasp for poetry, prose, or politicians who can give us a sense of hope and security moving forward, but, increasingly, it feels that words are a shout into the void of our collective crisis. 

Forgive me — I haven’t gotten off to a very empowering or inspiring start. Allow me to say, rather, that it is the greatest challenge of our generation to contextualize and combat the climate crisis – to put it into words that move masses, to pass effective policy, and to, one day, re-order our socio-economic and political structure in the hopes of healing our broken relationship with the land. We have been entrusted with a responsibility to notice what has been neglected, connect with what has been overlooked, and return to the roots from which we have grown so distant. 

Photo by Julentto Photography on Unsplash

The arc of humanity’s course hasn’t always been bent towards destruction. Indeed, for most of our history, our relationship with the land was a reciprocal one, with an intrinsic appreciation for the beauty and value of nature and a sense of gratitude for what she has given us. How, then, did we stray so far from the path? At what point along our journey did we lose sight of our obligation to protect and preserve the natural world? Many forces can be argued to be at fault: capitalism, western religion, patriarchy, industrialization, and globalization to name a few. These institutions have rooted themselves in the bedrock of our human identity, and, although certain brave activists and intellectuals attempt to chip away at them or abandon them entirely, they have had an irreversible effect on how we identify ourselves and what we owe to the natural world. 

This, therefore, is my thesis. To remind you, and to constantly remind me, how much we owe to the natural world. Indigenous cultures in North America, such as the Ojibwe and the Potawatomi, base their relationship with the environment on reciprocity; nothing is taken without permission, and everything that is taken is a gift that is owed gratitude, stewardship, and respect in return. It’s a simple premise, that we cannot take without asking and we cannot accept a gift without an act of gratitude in return. In native communities, this act of gratitude is often an offering of tobacco, a holy plant. The concept, a plant for a plant, a gift for a gift, is sacred in its simplicity. It is this concept that I cling to as we plunge deeper into our shared ecological fate. 

Humans, for all their faults, have always been quick learners. 

We must relearn this essential act of reciprocity, in whatever form it takes. Whether spiritual or physical, there is something we can offer the natural world in exchange for what it has given us. Gratitude and reciprocity are often forgotten as central tenets of environmentalism, but it is through these practices that we can heal our broken relationship with nature. This takes many forms; from cleaning up the parks and green spaces in which we play to paying a carbon tax, we are slowly relearning the practice of giving back in exchange for what is taken. The oldest and most essential of these practices is the planting of trees – thinking ahead for a future we may not be alive to see. The planting of a tree is an almost selfless act, as it asks an individual to give water, light, and sun to a being that will be standing long after we have fallen. 

When I’m asked to describe how I feel about the climate crisis, many negative words spring to mind. Afraid, disappointed, and anxious, my mind often screams, terrified of our spaceship earth going down. But, more than any of these things, I am grateful. 

Grateful for the opportunity to heal and to mend, and to relearn what we’ve so long ago forgotten. I am grateful for everything nature has given me so far and grateful to devote myself to the work of giving back to her. It is gratitude – deliberate, reciprocal gratitude – that will guide us as we look to save what has been overlooked for so long. 

RESOURCES FOR RESILIENCY

To keep from losing hope and remaining grateful in times of crisis, I prescribe the following remedies:

  • Community: there are groups in almost every town and county designated to bringing people together in appreciation for the natural world and the fight to protect her. In urban places, I urge you to seek the groups focused on preserving and maintaining local parks and gardens – access to natural spaces in urban communities is an essential aspect of rebuilding our relationship with nature. 
  • Local Advocacy: Often, it can feel like too much to try to carry the greater national and global fights of climate change on your shoulders. If you’re passionate about doing the work of outdoor advocacy but feel too overwhelmed to start, look to local groups working to protect and preserve the green spaces in your own community. It can be uplifting to see the effects of the work you’re doing in your hometown and to connect with other locals about what common ground you share and work to protect. 
  • Literature: so much of what we read about the environment these days is disheartening, exhausting, and depressing. There is an important place for this literature; it agitates us into action. However, to reconnect more peacefully and resiliently with this fight, check out the following books! 
    • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – a story of the nexus between indigenous tradition and scientific knowledge, and how we can bring the two narratives together to create a reciprocal relationship with the natural world. 
    • The Overstory by Richard Power – a gripping novel chronicling the lives of several different individuals as they had been impacted by and guided by trees, and how they ultimately came together in the fight against deforestation of America’s old-growth forests. 
    • We Rise: The Earth Guardians’ Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez – Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 19-year-old climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful new voice on the frontlines of a global youth-led movement. In this book, he and his group the Earth Guardians share stories and resources to guide regenerative, restorative climate action and activism. 
 Priya Subberwal
Priya Subberwal

Priya is a 20-year old climate activist currently studying Environmental Studies at New York University. She grew up hiking and skiing in the Rocky Mountains and is passionate about preserving our public lands for posterity. She can often be found outdoors protesting, photographing, or simply photosynthesizing. 

NOTE: THIS IS AN EDUCATED OPINION PIECE. As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own ed-op on this topic.

How to Talk to Your Family about Climate Change

We’ve all experienced it. Maybe you’re in an Uber making small talk with your driver, out at a bar talking to new friends, or at the dinner table with your family. The conversation is running smoothly, and then they say that they don’t believe in climate change. As someone who understands the realities of climate change, what do you do next?

First, and most importantly, remember that you need to have a conversation with this person rather than direct your best monologue at them. Take a breath and prepare to actively listen. Remember that you have other things in common with them and that you both have reasons to hold the opinions you do. Going on a tirade that makes the other person feel steamrolled, misunderstood, or patronized will not be productive. Research shows that people typically stick with the common opinion of their social group, so to reach someone, it’s important to maintain a positive relationship with them. Treat them with respect and kindness and show gratitude when they are willing to engage in a conversation with you. 

Now that we’ve gotten that jargon and gibberish out of the way, here are some ways to respond to common misconceptions about climate change with scientific accuracy: 

They say: “Climate change models are possibilities, not realities.”

You say: 

Some models you may know (besides Kylie Jenner) are the Netflix algorithm that helps you find your new binge favorite, the weather app on your phone, and the distance that Google Maps calculates to help you find the ice cream store that’s open the latest. 

Here’s how climate models are created and why we can trust them:

  1. Data on factors like CO2 and temperature can be related to one another mathematically – you’ve done this with equations like the Pythagorean theorem (a2 + b2 = c2) when you relate the sides of a triangle to each other.
  2. These mathematical relationships can be used to build a model that describes complex situations between things like human population growth, land use, economics, and atmospheric conditions. Each factor used in a model has been created and refined by groups of informed scientists; they are very much not wild guesses.
  3. After a new model is created, scientists test it by first using it to “predict” the past. The results of the new model are then compared to previously collected data. If the model results are pretty dang close to the actual historical data, then we can assume that the model will be pretty dang accurate predicting the future.
  4. After checking that we can trust it, the model can then be used to describe *big booming movie voice here* the future
  5. Models, and results from these models, are sent to multiple scientists (who are not related to the project) who then anonymously evaluate whether the model is accurate.

And it works–models from as long as 50 years ago accurately predicted today’s climate!


They say: “There’s no consensus among scientists that climate change is human-caused.”

You say: 

97% of publishing (that is, actively working) climate scientists agree that climate change is being caused by humans. Additionally, scientists with more climate expertise are more likely to agree that climate change is human-caused. Those with low expertise (i.e. non-scientists or scientists who don’t typically publish on climate research) are less likely to agree. Also, just saying, 97% of people who are all trained to constantly say “it depends” agreeing is pretty damn high.


They say: “The climate is cooling.”

You say: 

This comes down to the distinction between climate and weather. The simplest way to describe this difference is that the climate is like your closet and the weather is your clothes that make up that closet. Weather refers to short term events, like cold snaps, hurricanes, and monsoons. Weather events vary by location, and different areas have features that alter how the weather is experienced there. For example, morning fogs in the Bay Area of California would never occur in the plains of Wyoming because of the unique topographic/ecological features that cause the fog to be generated and trapped. 

Climate, on the other hand, refers to overall trends and patterns. Therefore, climate change describes increases in global temperature. So, while your city may have a cold snap or not be experiencing as dramatic of temperature increases, the global average temperature is increasing. The ocean is also soaking up a lot of the heat that’s being trapped by greenhouse gases, which means that air temperatures aren’t reacting as quickly as we might expect – but this is still a huge issue as warmer oceans will lead to ocean acidification and sea-level rise.


They say: “Animals and plants can adapt so why does it matter?”

You say:

Resilience is rad, and there are definitely animals and plants that can adapt. A lot can’t though. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Adaptation takes a lot of time. Adaptation requires many generations, because it is driven by the survival (and reproduction, wink wink – pass down those traits honey) of individuals that live through harsh conditions. Climate change is happening very quickly, and changes are more dramatic than populations have experienced before. If individuals of a given species have a long life span, that species is going to take a very long time to adapt to global change because makin’ those babies take a hot minute. 
  2. Climate change has both speed and scale on its side. If harsh conditions are only occurring on a local scale, then populations can migrate to buffer the effects on total species survival. For example, trees might move to cooler places (higher latitudes and elevations) to escape warming, but this takes decades and they are in a race against climate change. While there are areas that will experience less climate change that will hopefully provide safe spots for species, the pace and scale of climate change would require species to adapt at a rate that is not possible for most species.
  3. Warmer temperatures aren’t the only thing stressing out plants and animals. Species are up against a whole host of tough new conditions. These include rising temperatures, habitat loss, and habitat fragmentation, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution. These threats play off of one another and make it extremely difficult for species to move or adapt. If you only have one problem, it’s easier to find a solution than if you’re inundated with multiple problems that all exacerbate each other. 

They say: “We don’t know that climate change is human caused.”

You say:

This is getting to a key scientific concept that is completely fair to bring up: causation versus correlation. For example, you can often find a relationship (correlation) between unrelated factors, like rock music quality and US oil production – we can all agree that these two factors are not related, but they show extremely similar trends over time. We don’t have another planet where we’re not adding CO2 at unprecedented rates to see if it affects the climate, so how do we know for sure that COis what’s causing temperatures to rise?

The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is tightly related to increasing temperatures and has been for a very long time. We also understand on a fundamental level how the two are intertwined physically and chemically. There is no question that we are pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere, and there is no question that this will cause the Earth to warm. 

Lastly, other factors, like energy from the sun, have been ruled out as driving factors of temperature increases here on Earth. The energy coming from the sun has remained constant since 1750, and warming is happening only in the lower parts of the atmosphere and at the Earth’s surface – both pointing to the fact that changes in solar radiation cannot explain rising temperatures. 


They say: “The climate has changed before.”

You say:

Totally! The difference is that the climate is now changing much more, and much more quickly. The fluctuations that have occurred over the past 1,000 years were much slower and far less dramatic than the fluctuations we see now. We are now seeing the highest temperatures and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 that we have ever seen. So, while the climate has changed before, it is truly incomparable in scale and magnitude to the changes we are now seeing.

Rapid climate change is already happening in multiple ways

  1. Global temperature rises – almost 2 degrees F since the late 19th century, with most warming occurring in only the past 35 years, and the warmest 5 years on record happening since 2010.
  2. Warming oceans – oceans are trapping the heat that’s bounced back by greenhouse gases, which has resulted in a 0.4 degrees F increase since 1969. This has caused the global sea level to rise 8 inches in the last century. The rate of sea-level rise has nearly doubled over the last two decades, with that rate becoming faster each year.
  3. Ocean acidification – CO2 emitted by humans is being absorbed by the upper layers of oceans which causes acidification, in turn negatively impacting ocean life.
  4. Shrinking ice sheets – the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased significantly in mass, with the rates of Antarctic ice mass loss tripling in the last decade alone.
  5. Decreased snow cover – the amount of snow in the Northern Hemisphere is decreasing, and it’s melting earlier in many locations.
  6. Extreme events – there have been a rising number of extremely hot days and of intense rainfall events.

They say: “The climate is changing, but it won’t be as bad as scientists say it will be.”

I say:

Scientists don’t like to be wrong. Because it’s a scientist’s actual worst nightmare to publish something that is later found to be incorrect, we are very conservative in what we state to be true. For example, reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been found to actually underestimate how bad the effects of climate change will be. Further, there is a high degree of agreement among climate change models created and tested by multiple independent researchers, leading to a high degree of certainty among the scientific community.

Now that you’ve got science to back up your next challenging climate conversation, let’s revisit those basics. Remember this:

You need to have a conversation with this person rather than direct your best monologue at them. Take a breath and prepare to actively listen. Remember that you have other things in common with them and that you both have reasons to hold the opinions you do. Treat them with respect and kindness and show gratitude when they are willing to engage in a climate conversation with you. 


Chiara Forrester
Chiara Forrester

Chiara is happiest when she’s in the mountains on skis, a bike, or running. She also loves Ariana Grande (117 hours this year, thanks Spotify), making dinner with friends, and laughing too loudly at her own jokes. An ecologist who’s passionate about science communication and increasing diversity in STEM, Chiara is currently a PhD candidate in Boulder, CO, studying alpine plant ecology, undergraduate education, and the use of science in federal land management.

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.