Here we go. It seems that I have to talk about the thing I don’t want to talk about. I probably should not write about the election without some distance. But I would be remiss if I did not talk about the consequences of the election right now—simply because it will have a big effect on public lands policy and conservation. Those issues are at the heart of everything this magazine represents.
One lesson I want to walk away with is to better look at how I have acted. Have I become arrogant or at least distant and stopped listening to opposing viewpoints? I hope not, but I admit, it’s hard to stay cool when you get the kind of hate mail I have received over the years simply for championing recreation and wildlife. Should we be finding a way to include more people in outdoor recreation? We have looked at the lack of diversity as a problem for years in the outdoor industry, with little forward progress. Have we also forgotten how to speak to people who don’t buy $5,000 mountain bikes or care about new GoPro mounts or the latest waterproof/breathable fabric? Is enjoying these places simply another symptom of white, educated privilege? A perk of the elite?
I hope not. I certainly first came to love wild lands and wanted to fight to preserve them because of something deeper than my Strava time or backpacking trips with solar panels and wifi. I came for healing, for solace, for something outside technology and politics. The old Thoreau maxim “In wildness is the preservation of the world” has been my driving precept. We don’t save wild places to lock them away, we save them because we need them to remain sane in an anthropomorphic world that keeps getting louder and less able to see beyond itself. With so much rage out there, we all need the free and open preservation that wilderness can give us.
There have been so many good conversations since November 8, so many honest conversations, and sadly also so many toxic conversations. The only way I could get a hold on what happened—that many voters chose to turn their backs on issues from keeping public lands public to respecting women and diversity that mean so much to the regular readers of this magazine—was something my neighbor who works on women’s issues on Native American reservations told me. November 8 was no different than November 7, she said, except that now everything is out in the open.
Worry. There is a powerful movement to sell off public lands, to pollute the basic rights of clean water and air, to destroy irreplaceable wild places, to wipe out the complex and beautiful natural systems and life of this planet for quick profits and long-term losses. These impulses have been lurking under the surface. They just became empowered. Our response is key. We have to stand up for what we believe is right but we also need to do it in a way that is powerful without being exclusive and arrogant, and especially in a way that is non-violent.
That’s a difficult task. Some would say it’s impossible. But I believe it is attainable. The cost of losing is too high. So we need to have more conversations, and we must speak up with grace and certainty and compassion. I know I will try.