What speaks to you about the outdoors? If you have a strong connection to nature and wildlife, how do you think that connection happened? In your life today, how do you get your “outdoors fix?” Why do you like to hike in the forest, instead of a on a city street or around the Rose Bowl (not that they are mutually exclusive).
Those are the questions I wish the White House was asking us in their America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. If you want to tell the White House about your connection to the great outdoors, they are accepting comments, although they suggest you tell them about the obstacles to achieving your goals for conservation (challenges), what works, how can the federal government be an effective partner, and what tools and resources would make your efforts more successful.
Stories are powerful, so I urge you to tell the White House stories about your favorite places, earliest memories of being outdoors, and wishes for conservation.
My favorite place is anywhere in the Grand Canyon. I imprinted early on the redwall and red rocks anywhere send me into a peaceful place. Water in the desert is also magical, and I love to just watch for signs of life in the small wet potholes and creeksides. Some of my earliest memories of wildlife, however, are from my backyard, in the days before pesticides had killed every living ant and beetle in the alley behind my house. We tried to capture the ant queen and got stung many times; baby birds fell from trees and usually died, but we did try to raise them up. I was always trying to see – just see – an antlion -but they were too fast. I remember watching a praying mantis eat a ladybug – oh the horror! But that’s how I learned nature is “red in tooth and claw” – from bugs. I didn’t need to go to the large national parks, although we did. I was just a bored kid who went outside enough to get hooked on nature.
Meredith McCarthy of Heal the Bay puts it this way – she says the greatest obstacle to educating children about the Great Outdoors was, in her words, “All Children Left Inside,” also known as “No Child Left Behind.” She said teachers tell her they are stuck inside, teaching to tests, when they know that hands on outdoor activities are great teaching tools.
If the White House is concerned about conservation, they need to ensure kids of today get hooked on nature too, and teaching to the test won’t get us there.
What are your stories?