Did anyone else notice that the majority of the outdoor industry and nature writers remained silent regarding the 2016 election. Rather than take a stand for public lands, the environment and their survival, they didn’t utter a peep. Seeming overcome with fear of offending or losing a few precious followers, so called “outdoor experts” sat on their hands and hoped for the best. Perhaps driven by greed and profits, reputation and protection of image, their social media accounts barely mentioned an election, much less a plea to vote for nature. Those people are cowards, plain and simple.
They can claim that they were feeling election fatigue, exhausted by the 26 months of endless negativity and campaigning. They can say that neither candidate for President was that great, or that they were too busy, but we all know that it was a lie. They were too scared to offend, too apprehensive to take a stand on either side and fight for something. Maybe they were too worried that a few words encouraging protection of public lands would lose them book sales or possibly writing gigs. I find their silence embarrassing and disgraceful and I have a feeling you do too.
I have worked in politics in Washington State for the better part of a decade, fighting for progressive causes and candidates, running campaigns and working behind the scenes to try to save our state parks, fully fund education and protect out federal lands. I have met governors and members of congress, presidential candidates and school board members. I am not saying this to brag, but as an example to my level of political engagement. I am not just sitting idly by, hiking and trying to make a few bucks. I back up what I do every day with my work both in and out of the woods, highlighting the importance of wilderness and the environment to everyone I meet. I scream from the mountain tops and in the capitol that we need nature to be protected and when I share this message with others in the hiking community, I am met with silence.
The same people who remain silent, yet claim to be fighters for nature, are the ones who want to have nature to themselves, keeping trails and wilderness areas secret. They are the ones who blame social media for the popularity of the parks, somehow not realizing that we all love our public lands and we should be fighting for them every chance we get. We should not fear losing a few of our readers because they don’t believe in climate change or some other antiquated way of thinking. We have a voice and we have a readership that sometimes respects what we write. We have a job to educate the public, a responsibility as writers and leaders, passionate explorers and voters. Yet, they remained silent.
I am asking why. Why have we heard nothing from you? Do I need to call you out by name?
There are outliers to this, groups fighting for the future of National Parks and public lands, publicly raising awareness for voters and the environment. While I couldn’t possibly list them all, the main groups are well known and respected. Rick Steves, a fellow Washingtonian and travel hero, has been very outspoken about his thoughts on the election, consequence be damned. The always political and always awesome Patagonia has been using their social media and website for the past few months reminding everyone to #VoteOurPlanet. They would tweet during debates and encourage others to try to get the environment discussed on a national level. The Sierra Club put together a list for voters to follow to be a #ClimateVoter, covering every state in the union. I’d also like to thank High Country News and Wild Olympics for continuing to push troubled regions and raise political awareness. Another group that gets some love is Protect Our Winters, running a social media campaign to #DropinandVote.
Where the fuck was everyone else though? We wrote something. Did you? Where was the voting guides by local hiking experts or hiking groups? Don’t tell me they don’t want to interfere with the election, because they are supposed to be a champion of wilderness and of the environment. Stewards of the land do not sit back, biting their tongue and hoping everything works out. If you can’t do your basic job of trying to raise awareness and help protect regions of land, then what good are you?
I am embarrassed by my fellow outdoor writers. A few of you have taken a stand and have been publicly fighting to protect wilderness, our National and State Parks and our public lands. However, those who claim to be fighting the righteous fight are gutless. If you can’t take a stand for nature now, what will it take? We are at an important crossroads for the planet and for the future of nature in America and you say nothing? You are the old guard, too passive and too calculated for your own good. You are the reason we are in this mess; part of a selfish generation of hikers and writers that would rather keep their one trails a secret than to save more acres of land. I have lost what little respect I had for you, but I hope you can change before it is too late.
We all have a voice. We all can make a difference. While many sat out this election, we have a unique opportunity to come together and help save the planet. You, the person reading this on your phone, can make all the difference in the world, if we just use our passion for the wild lands of this country. We don’t have to march, or create Super PACS or even lobby congress, though those would all help. All we have to do is be loud and consistent with out message. We need to remember that on election day, we have the power to make a change that can impact generations to come. We need to remember to vote for all of our interest, including the environment. We are a powerful group of enthusiastic outdoor lovers, each of which has a community we can directly impact. While the 2016 election may be over, let today be the start of something new. Let us close out the decade by loving nature and encouraging all to get out and explore, supporting candidates and companies that want to help save, protect and fully fund these regions for another hundred years.
We have the power and the voices, and while some will remain silent, let us use that empty space to have our message heard. Our messages may not be 100% aligned, but we all agree on the main issues. After the dust settles in the 2016 election, let us all meet on a mountain somewhere and start preparing a strategy. We can do this. We have to do this.