Mindful Metropolis September 2011 : Page 41

green city | diversity in green Who’s Enjoying the Great Outdoors? by ERIkA HARRIS f you Google “black hiker” you’ll quickly find a three-minute video satire featuring Blair Underwood hiking, much to the as-tonishment of the whites he encountered along the way. It’s a funny spoof. And having recently returned from my first backpacking trip in the back country of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, I found some truth in it. From the retail space where I got outfit-ted to the wilderness trails I was on for three nights and four days, I saw very few people of color. There isn’t much current research to be found on racial diversity among out-door enthusiasts, but according to Back-packer Magazine , “Only 4 percent of fre-quent backpackers are African American, while Hispanics make up 19 percent and whites just over 70 percent.” These numbers have possibly browned in the last 15 years, but not visibly so. Sven Klingemann, organizer of the popular Chi-cago Backpackers Meetup Group, agrees that Blacks make up “very few” of their 1300-plus members. Sven is also a travel organizer with Sierra Club’s Chicago Inner City Outings, which is a “community out-reach program that provides opportuni-ties for urban youth and adults to explore, enjoy and protect the natural world.” He invites interested volunteers to learn more, and reach him at ico.sierraclub.org/chicago/ about_ico.htm. Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), the nation’s largest consumer cooperative dedi-cated to “inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and steward-ship,” has a Diversity In The Outdoors initia-tive which “is focused on increasing outdoor participation across diverse communities of I color.” Their commitment to this vision in-cludes bringing on their first-ever Director of Diversity this year. terrain with 30 pounds on my back, oc-casional rain and chill, without electricity, plumbing or waste management. “And even worse, we can come to feel at odds with the natural world, rather than an integral part of it.” According to REI’s published employee demographics last year: » 0.3 percent are Native Hawaiian » 0.6 percent are American Indian » 1.4 percent are Two or more races » 1.8 percent are Black » 4.5 percent are Hispanic » 5.0 percent are Asian » 86.4 percent are White A manager of REI’s Lincoln Park store said the employee percentages above don’t reflect the customer-base he sees on a day-to-day basis. Good distinction. But I still can’t help wonder if the under-representa-tion of brown folks in outdoor recreation is a manifestation of eco-elitism, cost-prohibi-tiveness, inaccessibility, low-to-no exposure or plain old disinterestedness? backpacking isn’t necessarily cheap I was fortunate enough to go with a very experienced friend who had all the gear we needed, but buying or renting a quality backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, water purifier, stove, boots, trekking poles, head-lamp, etc., can quickly add up. So why do it? As Edward Abbey stated, “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” Urban environments brim with endless distraction, consumerism and complexity. Separating from all that recreates our minds and spirits. Sure, modern comforts are nice, but over time they can dull our senses and make us whiny and doubtful of our capabili-ties. And even worse, we can come to feel at odds with the natural world, rather than an integral part of it. There is a huge difference between sitting on a park bench and sleeping in a grove of trees. There is no comparison between boat-ing in Lake Michigan for an afternoon, and sourcing (and filtering/sterilizing) the water you drink from a racing creek. Yes, it’s buggy. No, there’s no space for glamour and no Internet. But, it’s worth it— and never too late to start. The treasures of the wild are for everyone. Erika Harris is an empathic writer and con-sultant. Visit her at empathicwriter.com and lifeblazing.com. mINDFULmetrOpOLIs.COm backpacking isn’t necessarily easy My first day consisted of a six-mile ascend-ing hike, in high elevation, on steep rocky 41

Diversity In Green

Who’s Enjoying the Great Outdoors?<br /> <br /> If you Google “black hiker” you’ll quickly find a three-minute video satire featuring Blair Underwood hiking, much to the astonishment of the whites he encountered along the way. It’s a funny spoof. And having recently returned from my first backpacking trip in the back country of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, I found some truth in it.<br /> <br /> From the retail space where I got outfitted to the wilderness trails I was on for three nights and four days, I saw very few people of color. There isn’t much current research to be found on racial diversity among outdoor enthusiasts, but according to Backpacker Magazine, “Only 4 percent of frequent backpackers are African American, while Hispanics make up 19 percent and whites just over 70 percent.” <br /> <br /> These numbers have possibly browned in the last 15 years, but not visibly so. Sven Klingemann, organizer of the popular Chicago Backpackers Meetup Group, agrees that Blacks make up “very few” of their 1300-plus members. Sven is also a travel organizer with Sierra Club’s Chicago Inner City Outings, which is a “community outreach program that provides opportunities for urban youth and adults to explore, enjoy and protect the natural world.” He invites interested volunteers to learn more, and reach him at ico.sierraclub.org/chicago/ about_ico.htm. <br /> <br /> Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), the nation’s largest consumer cooperative dedicated to “inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship,” has a Diversity In The Outdoors initiative which “is focused on increasing outdoor participation across diverse communities of Color.” Their commitment to this vision includes bringing on their first-ever Director of Diversity this year.<br /> <br /> “And even worse, we can come to feel at odds with the natural world, rather than an integral part of it.”<br /> <br /> According to REI’s published employee demographics last year:<br /> <br /> » 0.3 percent are Native Hawaiian<br /> » 0.6 percent are American Indian<br /> » 1.4 percent are Two or more races<br /> » 1.8 percent are Black<br /> » 4.5 percent are Hispanic<br /> » 5.0 percent are Asian<br /> » 86.4 percent are White<br /> <br /> A manager of REI’s Lincoln Park store said the employee percentages above don’t reflect the customer-base he sees on a dayto- day basis. Good distinction. But I still can’t help wonder if the under-representation of brown folks in outdoor recreation is a manifestation of eco-elitism, cost-prohibitiveness, inaccessibility, low-to-no exposure or plain old disinterestedness?<br /> <br /> Backpacking isn’t necessarily easy <br /> <br /> My first day consisted of a six-mile ascending hike, in high elevation, on steep rocky terrain with 30 pounds on my back, occasional rain and chill, without electricity, plumbing or waste management.<br /> <br /> Backpacking isn’t necessarily cheap <br /> <br /> I was fortunate enough to go with a very experienced friend who had all the gear we needed, but buying or renting a quality backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, water purifier, stove, boots, trekking poles, headlamp, etc., can quickly add up.<br /> <br /> So why do it?<br /> <br /> As Edward Abbey stated, “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” <br /> <br /> Urban environments brim with endless distraction, consumerism and complexity. Separating from all that recreates our minds and spirits. Sure, modern comforts are nice, but over time they can dull our senses and make us whiny and doubtful of our capabilities. And even worse, we can come to feel at odds with the natural world, rather than an integral part of it.<br /> <br /> There is a huge difference between sitting on a park bench and sleeping in a grove of trees. There is no comparison between boating in Lake Michigan for an afternoon, and sourcing (and filtering/sterilizing) the water you drink from a racing creek.<br /> <br /> Yes, it’s buggy. No, there’s no space for glamour and no Internet. But, it’s worth it— and never too late to start. The treasures of the wild are for everyone.

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