We elected a climate denier, so now what? Roll up your sleeves for the outdoors

I’m still trying to digest the election. I’m still trying to make sense of it all. I wasn’t prepared for this–not at all. I see now that I had been living in a bubble of privilege and community that led me to the ignorant sureness that Trump could never become the leader of my country. It has been (and still is) a major adjustment to chew on.

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Photo: Jo Savage (@SavageDangerWolf)

I spent Election Day on the California coast, with my phone in airplane mode. I had emerged from camping in the redwoods that morning and thought to myself, “no sense in driving myself nuts with election coverage all day, I’ll just tune back in later tonight when Hillary takes it.” I was not prepared for what I saw when I finally turned on the television. I ended my day at a seaside hotel, cradled in a fancy bathrobe while crying over the unexpected future that had just been thrust upon me.

What happens now?

This new political climate we live in stretches so much further than the outdoor advocacy I’ve been focused on for the past few years. This brings back the other issues I used to fight for: gay rights and equality, women’s reproductive rights, immigration and refuges.

It’s overwhelming to think too hard about everything that is at stake now. I’ve witnessed a lot of turmoil, anguish, mourning, and heartbreak. Many of us needed to step back for a few moments of self-care, to pause for a moment and focus on self before diving in to care for others. The accompanying messages reminding friends to look out for themselves and remember that they are loved were some of the first glimpses of hope I saw emerge from the rubble.

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen the start of an uprising. We had our moment to be sad and upset, and now it’s time to move into action. My inbox has been flooded with messages asking me how to get involved, what organizations to support, what the outdoor industry is going to do. And not just a single moment of doing something–this is about adapting our lifestyle to accommodate the grit and tenacity needed to protect what matters.

To protect our public lands and the planet;
To protect our fellow Americans;
To protect women’s bodies;
To protect all the progress our country has made in the past decade.

We have questions. Where do we go from here? What is the first step? And the second, and the third? How can we protect the places we play? What do we say to our children? We can’t pretend this isn’t happening, so what do we do now?

There is much work to be done. And we have so much to give. But where to start? I think the first place is figuring out what issues matter the most to you. What do you want to pour your effort and energy into? Is it climate change, reproductive rights, youth homelessness, sustainability? How about leave no trace ethics, the immigration and refuge crisis, saving the bees, saving the glaciers? Maybe tackling racism, homophobia, and that whole white supremacy thing that just casually became acceptable again? Pick your battles, and then suit up. Dedicate yourself to them. 

And of course, the backbone of it all: building community. Where would we be without our brothers and sisters? Our fellow outdoorists, our neighbors, our family, the people we love and work with. Through all of this, remember the value of your community. Protect each other, support each other, care for each other, love each other fiercely.

Here are a few of the many ways to roll up your sleeves:

  • Give to the organizations you support. I’m guilty of not doing this–I’m a big advocate for organizations like Outdoor Alliance, Protect Our Winters, Sierra Club, and American Alpine Club, but I never give. I had a membership to AAC and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, but they both lapsed. Now is the time to renew, to start giving what you can. This is the time to skip the daily latte and make contributions to the organizations representing your causes out on the front lines. You might think you can’t afford a $25 annual membership fee–but what you really can’t afford is losing access to public lands. Priorities, kids.
  • Start using your social channels for advocacy. Get vocal about the issues you care about. Amplify your allies, and support your community. Express your disappointment in elected officials who aren’t serving you.
  • Pick up the phone. I know, it’s intimidating–but it’s effective. Social media makes it easy to participate; I’ve seen multiple folks posting with specific instructions guiding you through the calling/survey process and how to leave messages for your representatives.

    Your voice is so important now, use it.

  • Keep an eye on OIA. Yes, I work with Outdoor Industry Association, so I’m biased–but the policy work OIA does affects every member of the outdoor community. And we’re going all in this year. There’s an incredible outdoor advocacy action center launching in 2017 that will be a vital resource in the fight for public lands and protecting the future of our industry. Listen to the post-election podcast.
  • Attend protests. March alongside your community. Make signs, sing chants, hold hands with strangers in the streets. Be present for the issues that matter to you. (I’ll see you at the SLC Women’s March on January 23rd–similar events are happening all over the country. Go to one.)
  • Go ask Erin Outdoors about working in a community kitchen to serve locally. Contributing locally is going to be a huge part of facilitating unity and remembering the light during periods of darkness. Volunteer at your local humane society, help weed your community garden, go to a trail day. These may not seem like political activism, but they’re an important part of the equation too.

It’s going to be a long, hard four years for environmentalists and outdoor advocates. We seriously just put a climate denier in the White House, and now we have to face the consequences. I never expected to be considering the possibility of putting myself on a Muslim registry to help protect my fellow Americans. I never expected to get calls from girlfriends urging me to get an IUD because I might soon lose rights over my own body. I never expected to see hateful racists having a moment of empowerment, crawling out of the pathetic caves from which they usually reside.

I never expected this outcome, but here it is. Here we are, in this new reality–and our only option is to fight. So let’s fight hard, together.

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