Diversity in the outdoors
Recently, I submitted my thoughts to a fellow blogger in the outdoor industry (She-Explores – whom I adore and feverishly read up on each week) for an upcoming podcast that is in the works on diversity in the outdoors. The team at She-Explores is delving into the topic alongside Liz Song Mandel of Snowqueen and Scout (another favorite!) by asking two simple questions:
- “Why does diversity in the outdoors matter to you?”
- “What questions do you have about the topic of diversity in the outdoors?
Audio recording for She-Explores – Diversity in the Outdoors
…THE HOPE IS THAT SOMEDAY SOON THE PEOPLE THAT FILL THE INDUSTRY AND OUR SPACES WILL MIMIC THE BIODIVERSITY ALREADY FOUND WITHIN NATURE.
Diversity in the outdoors matters for the same reasons diversity matters in our workplaces, our social settings, the government, our cities…our LIVES IN GENERAL… and even more so within organizations looking to have a truly meaningful impact in the world.
The perplexing thing is that nature itself is FULL of diversity – and yet when we look at participation and representation of human beings within the outdoor landscape, we fall short more often than not. I think we can all agree that the hope is that someday soon the people that fill the industry and our spaces will mimic the biodiversity already found within nature.
The path to change, I think, starts with access and awareness and by making a conscious decision to represent all histories and experiences equally. Carolyn Finney recently penned an op ed for Outside Magazine on the subject and put it quite beautifully. She said “I don’t see me… or more accurately I don’t see a space for me.” She goes on to talk about how people tend to write and create what they know and that if we want to see a different story, we need to seek out and empower different people to tell it.
Research shows that diversity and inclusion spur greater FAR innovation, creativity, and problem solving so perhaps before access and awareness comes representation. Each federal, state and local office that deals with our natural resources should seek to be just as diverse as the community they serve. The same goes for the industry. Do not simply look outward to your customers or constituents for diversity and wonder why you do not see change despite all your initiatives and charity events but rather, look inward… to your team, your board, your partners. That’s where true change starts.
SOMETIMES WE LIKE TO DANCE AROUND THE WORD DIVERSITY WITHOUT SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO WHAT KINDS OF DIVERSITY WE ARE LOOKING FOR.
For me personally – the diversity I hope to see includes a greater presence and representation of our racial diversity as a country, more accessibility and awareness of our elders’ outdoor experiences, and a broader view of the female experience and capability than what has come before.
It’s also my belief that rather than wait for a more diverse group to come to you – you must instead go to them and meet them where they are. We should lay aside our assumptions that certain people “don’t do _______.” and instead look for examples and adjacencies. A black or latino family may bring a group outdoors to a park or backyard for a party or their daily bike ride. A Chinese family may be more likely to look forward to their daily jog or walks to the store. A retiree or low-income family without a car may wish there was simply a park within walking distance to their house. We should build on experiences they are already a part of and what they already enjoy doing. A few years back someone at IDEO stated that the industry was facing a necessary move – going from outdoorsy to outsidesy – in an effort to broaden their audience. What that essentially means is that we need to be looking at how to bring outdoor experiences mainstream – not only for diversity sake but also to ensure that we are have a significant, deeply invested society to help with broader conservation efforts over the next 100 years.
THEY SEE URBAN PARKS AS A THRESHOLD EXPERIENCE FOR OUR UNDERSERVED INDIVIDUALS…
The National Park Service has a similar goal with their Urban Agenda as the relevance of urban parks is once again on the upswing as our population moves back to our city centers – naturally diverse melting pots of gender, race and age. They see urban parks as a threshold experience for our underserved individuals and I couldn’t agree more. It’s perhaps the first opportunity for many for a physical connection, to establish a more quickly accessible sense of place and space for our diversity to firmly take root.