A Commitment to Community: Activists You Need to Know About This Earth Day
Mother Earth. Madre Tierra. Turtle Island. No matter how you refer to our home planet, if you’re reading this, you speak the love language that only Mother Nature teaches. As hikers, climbers, bikers, skiers, campers, boaters, and more, we learn lessons from the Earth that few others do: our closeness to the trail as much of the trees teaches us to listen.
Every year since April 22, 1970, United States citizens have rallied on Earth Day, championing initiatives (and originally, environmental and regulatory mechanisms) to protect Mother Earth from unbridled development and exploitation. But celebrating Earth Day isn’t enough; a holiday for the EPA doesn’t mean progress and definitely doesn’t mean we’ve arrived.
There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”Astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator Carl Sagan
This Earth Day, let’s reevaluate what it means to be human during the Anthropocene, “the proposed current geological epoch in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change.” As outdoor lovers, we don’t just know and love the power of transformative experiences in the outdoors. We also know, often too well, that without supportive communities, Mother Nature will suffer.
This year, join these activists and outdoor-lovers challenging the world to amplify the role community plays in communion with Earth.
Nine Activists and Community Organizers Reframing How, Where, and Why We Play
Tiffany Blount, She/Her
Tiffany likes to call herself the climber’s climber. She educates, motivates, and supports Black women and girls in competitive rock climbing. She creates safe spaces to train, compete, and simply care for your body on and off the wall.
I created an event called Hike the Crag so I could bring my community to spaces in which they lack a complete understanding. Teaching Leave No Trace in the actual spaces we recreate is essential in creating a connection with the land. That connection has been broken for a long time. Black Americans have historically had a negative relationship with the outdoors and I’m here to change that. Not only am I here to fight to see that love grow, I’m here to make sure we ensure these stolen lands flourish. For the Indigenous people who lost their lives fighting for this land and for the enslaved whose blood runs deep in the soil.@blackgirlsboulder / @tiffbfirst
Kieren Britton, She/Her
Kieren is a bridge-builder within the outdoor community. Her goal is to help women+ build confidence and community through adventure while empowering women+ and our allies by amplifying incredible adventurers through The Lady Alliance TV.
Community is important on Earth Day because change needs to be a celebrated collaborative effort. Individually our efforts are important, but together we can make a huge impact.The Lady Alliance
Vanessa Chavarriaga Posada, She/Her/Hers
Vanessa Chavarriaga is an a Colombian immigrant, environmental sociologist, and athlete who focuses on the intersection between society and nature. She is currently earning her Master’s in American Studies and Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Wyoming. Vanessa is passionate about environmental justice and disrupting unhealthy norms. Her favorite ways to spend time outside include skiing, climbing mountains, trail running, and foraging.
When we advocate for BIPOC communities, we are simultaneously advocating for clean water, clean air, access to local and healthy foods, and equitable access to nature. A long standing problem in environmentalism is the failure to connect the needs of people and nature and advocate for all. Collective liberation involves human and nonhuman worlds working together!@vanessa_chav
Deenaalee Hodgdon (They/Them)
Deenaalee is a translator across academic, policy, non-profit, and artist communities. They seek to facilitate conversations and action toward the decolonization of media, the outdoor industry, governance, and land management. They see themselves as part of the greater constellation that is the social and climate justice community that centers on radical joy and pleasure. Deenaalee is semi-nomadic, spending their time between their van, yurt, and fish-camp where you can catch them skiing, biking, climbing, and kayaking or practicing subsistence activities such as fishing and trapping.
A focus on community is essential this Earth Day, and let’s be honest, beyond. During this day we have the opportunity to decenter the individual humanistic view that has been embedded in western dominant narratives. If you look at Indigenous ways of knowing, you will see that our worldview places us amongst many Beings. This holistic view allows us to create kinship ties across species, animals, and plants alike. Through these relations, we come into community with them and become closer to our human communities. Think about the power of coffee and tea, these are plant relations that bring us together in everyday rituals. Or in northern communities, you will see many people gather around the harvest of fish, moose, caribou, and whale. I know many people might cringe or think, “how does the harvest of animals and plants help us to celebrate the Earth?” Well, if you are living in right relationship with these communities, which means using that animal or plant fully and only taking what you need, your interdependence will ultimately create ecosystems primed for co-habitation.@go_barefoot / @on.the.land
Gabaccia is a multi-disciplinary storyteller and outdoor equity advocate #ExploringResponsibly wherever life takes her.
Environmentalism cannot exist within one individual and become a “done deal.” This work must not only be grounded in community but it truly is needed for the benefits and healing of our communities. For far too long have money and power held utmost authority when it comes to impacting our Earth, it is about time People become the authority to decide the future of our planet.@Gabaccia / @OutdoorFuture
gabaccia.com / outdoorfuture.org
Matt Moy (He/Him)
Matt Moy is a climber and activist fighting for justice in the outdoors and healthcare. Based in Chicago, he serves on his local climbing gym’s diversity council and works with other grassroots organizations and schools to decrease the social and cultural barriers to the outdoors for the bipoc community. He started and continues to maintain a tight street medic collective in the city that supports protesters and offers mutual aid to unhoused people. Matt also creates curricula for continued learning on how others can use their privilege in different and responsible ways. He regularly trains students and comrades on organizing and activist skills and techniques. Outside of this, he works as a grassroots organizer for two non-profits to that advocate for a single payer system and environmental justice on both the state and national stages.
Earth Day is an opportunity for us not only to highlight all the wonderful things about this planet but also our collective impact on it and how we can protect it. Individually, we hold so much power – we have voices, we have skills, we have so much wisdom. But together, as a community, that power gets amplified into a force. Communities take care of each other – it is a mutual effort, and our planet is a part of that community. As we help each other, we help ourselves; we help Mother Earth. This is the essence of mutual aid through community work. The tighter we are, the more we understand each other, and the better we can collectively accomplish so much more. With consistent reminders of what we can do through our united and amplified power, the possibilities are endless. My work as a policy and grassroots organizer helps to tackle these issues through multiple fronts while keeping me grounded. Communities work hard, but we also learn from each other through new strategies, communications, and efforts. These perspectives in a community mirror the growth we need in ourselves and in our planet. Whether it is planting community gardens in the city, organizing park cleanups, or lobbying for better policy, they all are part of a greater effort to make our planet healthier and last longer.@ninjatengu / @hmmoy
Rachel Olzer (She/They)
Rachel is an athlete, writer, and organizer. She started Pedal 2 the People in 2019 with friend (and homie) Eric Arce. There, they help cyclists who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color tell their stories, specifically sharing about what role cycling has played in their lives. Through this work, they aim to show that cycling is more than the one-dimensional stories that are so often portrayed in popular cycling/outdoor media. Through her own writing, she explores topics related to race, the complexity of identity, and activism in cycling and the outdoors.
Surviving the past 6 years in Minneapolis, particularly the past year, has shown me that community is the heart of change. Community makes capitalism obsolete in many ways, particularly when you can’t rely on the powers that be to protect you. And since capitalism is the sickness that is destroying the planet, I see community as the cure.@rachel.olzer / @pedal2thepeople
Raheim Robinson, (He/Him)
Raheim is a creative director working with brands and gyms to change the narrative for BIPOC folks in the outdoor and climbing industries.
We are who we surround ourselves with and if we can help underserved communities that have been left out of the conversations that drive change around saving this space we share it can and will only support the health of our earth moving forward.@rahrobinson
Jr Rodriguez, (He/Him/Él)
Jr is a bilingual-bicultural mestizo storyteller, conservationists, and multisport athlete focusing on the reciprocity between people and “nature”.
The space I take up and try to create for others in nature/outdoors feels like “solitude” but I’m never alone por que mi family, la raza, mi communidad esta conmigo siempre but they, like I, are not welcomed. Yet, we pick the food, we get flooded, and we will be the first wave of climate refugees. My communities are affected by nature whether the outdoor industry or a branded Earth Day event allows space for us or not. Earth Day is so much more than a metal straw or a water bottle that protects snow, it’s a reality that we live every day. It’s about food sovereignty for a multitude of cultures, it’s about sustainable jobs for the future, it’s about policies that protect BIPOC communities from environmental hazards/changes, it’s about reciprocity with our “natural” world, and we can’t do that without all of our communities working towards collective action for more than a metal straw.@JrRdrgz
Moving Forward: A Better Earth Day
This Earth Day, let’s think about the ways we can support each other and our broader communities the other 364 days of the year. After giving each of the activists and organizers above a follow, challenge your friends and neighbors to step up and make a difference.
Don’t just support environmental protection—show up, in community—for “Mama Natch.”