Feeling overwhelmed by all the bad news in the world? These five Rocky Mountain-based conservationists, advocates and activists are working hard to create real, positive change—and they think you can do the same.

There’s a lot wrong with the world—and it feels as if it just keeps getting worse. In the outdoor space, we face the reality of climate change, attacks on public lands, cyberbullying, gender imbalances, and lingering problems with diversity and inclusion. The severity of these issues cause many to simply bemoan it all. But many dedicated activists and advocates are working to change things. And they are succeeding. You can too.

Clare Gallagher

Claire Gallagher

A Patagonia global sports activist, Colorado’s Clare Gallagher prioritizes working to save the planet, advocating for climate policy in the state and nationally. Oh, she’s also one of the top ultra runners in the game, storming to wins in the Western States 100 in 2019, Europe’s CCC in 2017 and Leadville 100 in 2016.

What personal achievements as a conservationist/advocate/activist are you most proud of?

Forgoing a traditional training taper before the 2019 Western States and heading to Alaska [with Tommy Caldwell and Patagonia] in order to learn and raise awareness about the plight of the Arctic Refuge.

What concerns you most in the world today?

The blatant corruption within the Trump administration. We are losing public lands to oil and gas leases at an alarming rate. We own these lands, collectively as Americans. We must do more to ensure that the corrupt people in the current administration don’t permanently ruin our planet. We must elect climate champions in 2020. That means defeating Trump. That means replacing Colorado senator Cory Gardner and representative Scott Tipton. Both claim to be for Coloradans and for public lands. But look at their voting records. They are ruining our chances to transition to a renewable energy economy. This is not something Colorado stands for; all polls show this clearly. We must replace them with smarter people who know that we have to transition away from fossil fuels and to a renewable energy economy. Let’s do our part to get them into office.

Where do you see hope?

Runners are chipping away at the problems in their backyards. All politics (and, in some ways, all problems) are local. Protect Our Winters is absolutely crushing climate policy advocacy. They are a shoestring operation, strategically educating outdoor-lovers to vote for climate champions. And of course, Patagonia is one of the only outdoor brands walking the talk. If every outdoor brand committed to be carbon neutral by 2025, I’d be proud of the outdoor industry. As we currently stand though, brands, especially other big ones, are not doing enough.

What do you think people who feel powerless can do to create real meaningful change in the world?

Let’s clean up supply chains. Move to organic cotton and non-virgin nylon and polyester. It’s not rocket science. Let’s be better as outdoor consumers and brands. Let’s undertake more backyard adventures. If you have to travel frequently, then offset that with political advocacy. Share your travel experiences. Share what you see in our changing climate.

Taishya Adams

Taishya Adams

A global leader in educational equity for the past two decades, Taishya Adams currently works at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) as a senior education consultant. Among numerous responsibilities she serves as the chair of AIR’s Black, Latino, African American and Caribbean (BLAAC) Diaspora Network Employee Resource Group, dedicated to promoting an inclusive, culturally responsible work environment. In July, Governor Jared Polis appointed her to serve on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

What personal achievements as a conservationist/advocate/activist are you most proud of?

I am proud to serve on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission since July 2019. I am working to create a more inclusive culture addressing issues of access and representation head-on while increasing opportunities for meaningful participation. Giving agency and voice to Coloradans throughout the state and intentionally centering members who have been historically in the margins has been a priority. I am also proud to serve as a Colorado co-leader for Outdoor Afro, dedicated to inspiring black connections and leadership in the outdoors.

What concerns you most in the world today?

Divisions and distraction. If you can’t get them to ignore shared interests, make them all chase after the latest shiny penny—this strategy has worked since the beginning of recorded history around the world. Every day, I remember MLK’s words, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” I am not ready to perish and, thankfully, there’s people around the world who feel the same way and are acting collectively.

Where do you see hope?

At the local level, people like C. Parker McMullen of Ecoclusive give me hope. Parker spearheaded the Inclusive Denver: Equity and Accessibility Summit for Action, which brought together 100+ Denver based environmental/outdoor stakeholders to strategize on how to strengthen collaboration and cooperation. The summit has now evolved into a strong community of practice. At the state level, I see hope in new political leaders like Governor Jared Polis, Congressman Joe Neguse and Denver City Council member Candi CdeBaca.

What do you think people who feel powerless can do to create real meaningful change in the world?

Our system is designed to make people feel powerless. It’s rooted in inequitable policies, practices and protocols to maintain an imbalance of power. The recent anniversary of slavery in the United States is upon us and a whole campaign has emerged to revisit this tragic history that impacts not only African Americans but all people across the planet, just as others histories affect us. Feeling powerless? Find a way to connect in real life with real people on real issues. Find a way to be a part of the solution. Find a problem the world needs solved and leverage your talents, power and privilege to shift the balance of power towards justice for all. Inaction is action and silence is consent.

Mario Molina

Mario Molina

The executive director of Protect Our Winters (POW) since 2017, Mario Molina has spent a decade fighting climate change. Before joining POW, he worked for former vice president, Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project, where he was charged with looking at how the organization could have the most impact in implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change, and he served as the deputy director for the Alliance for Climate Education. He also ran his own bike guide company, opening up a guide shop in Guatemala, as well as working as a mountain guide in Ecuador.

What personal achievements as a conservationist/advocate/activist are you most proud of?

I’m proud of our successful efforts at POW in the 2018 elections to make voting and climate change a priority amongst outdoor sports enthusiasts—the fact that we were able to get that out as strongly as we did and it was as effective as it was.

What concerns you most in the world today?

Obviously it’s the prospect of uncontrolled climate change—but we can break that down a little bit more to the entrenchment of special interests in politics. That actually keeps us from being able to make progress on aggressive policies that will both help the economy and curb the worst impacts of climate change. There has also been an intentional spread of misinformation that has driven a cultural divide in this country.

Where do you see hope?

We are seeing communities rise up and adopt environmental values that may not have been normative in the past. Look at the new hero in our outdoor community. It’s no longer the person who dropped the sickest line or climbs the hardest. Now the real hero does all that but also stands for something—for public lands or climate action. That’s why we see companies and brands now realizing that they can’t only manufacture products. They have to hold to values. You saw Nike do this with Colin Kaepernick. It doesn’t matter if you agree with Kaepernick or not. This company actually took a risk by saying, “This is who we stand behind and this is what we stand behind.”

What do you think people who feel powerless can do to create real meaningful change in the world?

Make a commitment to making that change. It’s very similar to the way that we approach our objectives on the mountain. You don’t get up one day and say, “I’m going to climb Denali. I haven’t run two miles this year, but I’m going.” First, you study, you learn, you educate yourself on the mountain. You educate yourself on the objective and figure out what it’s going to take to get from here to there. I think that that’s the first step for people who want to become more effective advocates as well. The next step is to take simple actions: register to vote and vote on climate, call your elected representatives, show up at your local council meeting, etc.

Chris Winter

Chris Winter

A former environmental attorney who worked for a decade to help the Native people of Alaska fight to stop offshore drilling, Chris Winter took the reins as executive director of the Access Fund in January. His time working at the intersection of multinational oil and gas companies, indigenous communities and climate change, and his love of climbing, made him the top choice to run the non profit that solves land-use issues for climbers.

What personal achievements as a conservationist/advocate/activist are you most proud of?

I worked in northern Alaska representing Native communities on the North Slope who were  concerned about offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. In federal court, we challenged these poorly planned offshore drilling operations. And we were largely successful in that campaign.

What concerns you most in the world today?

Everything right now is so divisive. The media, the political climate, social media—it seems like all these forces are just trying divide us. That concerns me a lot. To create positive change, we need to get folks aligned towards a positive vision that moves us beyond typical political debates, and then get people working at a really practical level towards making that happen.

Where do you see hope?

One of the reasons I’m really psyched about this job is that I feel as if outdoor recreation and the way it contributes to local economies is just a really powerful story. I’m excited about using outdoor rec, conservation, stewardship and local economic development as tools to bring people together and to help build community.

What do you think people who feel powerless can do to create real meaningful change in the world?

I think it starts right in the local community. A big part of that is just following your passion, unplugging, getting outside with your friends and family and getting recharged and just connecting with the landscape. I think that is so important, especially for people who are trying to do good. Start with small steps. Maybe participate in a trail day or a crag cleanup day. Write a letter or go to a public meeting. Start small and make connections with people who are doing the same thing. Those small steps build on each other and then you find likeminded people. That’s when great things happen.

Caroline Gleich

Caroline Gleich

Utah-based ski mountaineer and athlete Caroline Gleich is the first woman and fourth person to ski all 90 lines in the Wasatch’s legendary “Chuting Gallery,” and she’s graced the covers of Powder and Backcountry magazines among others. She has climbed and skied Cho Oyu (the sixth highest peak in the world) and summited Mt. Everest (without an ACL!). And she’s an outspoken activist for clean air, climate change, gender equality and anti-cyberbullying.

What personal achievements as a conservationist/advocate/activist are you most proud of?

Sharing what I’ve learned with others and teaching/inspiring outdoor adventurers to become activists. In 2016, I spoke at a Park City Council meeting when the city decided to go 100% renewable by 2030. Since then, many other cities have followed, transforming our grid in the state of Utah and nationally. I’ve been on five D.C. lobbying trips to talk to elected officials, the EPA, the Department of the Interior and others about the importance of protecting public lands and fighting climate change. I’ve marched with 100,000 people in D.C. in the Climate March. I spoke to over 3,000 at the March for Science in Utah.

What concerns you most in the world today?

The lack of compassion in online and digital communications. I want to see us lift each other up, not tear each other down. We are stronger when we work together and find common ground.

Where do you see hope?

Everywhere! There are so many ways people are serving their country and the world, whether they are volunteering for a non-profit, speaking up as a citizen activist, running for public office or serving in the military. I believe our lives are lived most fully when we work to be of service to others. That means everything from taking care of yourself to taking care of your family, to taking care of the planet and doing what you can to make the world a better place.

What do you think people who feel powerless can do to create real meaningful change in the world?

Start being curious. Look at the world through the eyes of a child. And ask deep questions: Where does my water come from? Where does it go? Examine the systems that deliver electricity. Realize that we all have deeper reserves than we think. At the end of the day, I want to give my heart and soul to every cause. I want to go to bed tired, with feet aching from all the ground I’ve covered. I want to live each day to the fullest and do everything I can to make the world a better place during my short time on this planet.