Trust For Public Land’s 2022 Earth Day celebration: All in for the Outdoors
With roughly 82 percent of the U.S. living in urban areas — and an estimated 89 percent by 2045 — it’s becoming increasingly essential to honor and protect our environment, as each plant or insect plays a vital role in the larger picture of Mother Earth.
TPL Director Ronda Chapman led the in-depth conversation about appreciating the outdoors and ensuring that it’s accessible to all. Three panelists joined, including:
- Nick Offerman: An actor primarily known for his role as Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks & Recreation. He’s also written five New York Times best-selling books, including his most recent, “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside.”
- Tykee James: An avid birder and co-founder of the first Black Birders Week in 2020. He serves as the president of the D.C. Audubon Society and co-founder of Amplify the Future.
- Danielle Williams: Founder of Melanin Base Camp and Diversify Outdoors, she promotes representation and diversity in outdoor spaces. #DiversifyOutdoors has been used 124,000 times across social platforms.
Each member of the trio has cultivated a close relationship with nature. For them, engaging with the natural world is synonymous with feeling grounded and connected to something larger than themselves.
Offerman is a longtime admirer of the outdoors, coming from a family of practical environmentalists who hunt, fish and know their way around a tool kit. It wasn’t until he began reading environmental authors in his 20s, though, that he truly joined the cause, he said during the virtual event.
“That sort of woke me up to the fact that we really are very good consumers in Western civilization, meaning that we’re terrible environmentalists,” Offerman said. “We hide in the mollycoddling of modern consumerism and have all of our food and products and supplies provided for us, which has severed our ties with understanding how we fit into Mother Nature’s metabolism.”
He continued: “That was an epiphany that I haven’t been able to shake, and since I have a platform with an occasional audience or readership, I said, ‘Well, I’m going to do my best to entertain you while talking about the health of our soil, our ecosystems and our watersheds.’”
Like Offerman, James’ affinity for the outdoors grew by recognizing that humans represent just one thread within the web of life. This “aha”moment was inspired by one bird in particular, the belted kingfisher.
“For me, it was the bird that reminded me that it’s not just the bird we’re looking at. We’re looking at the bird in the tree, the tree in the habitat, the habitat in the community,” James said. “It brings a lot of humility to see that in a moment and to be present for that moment.”
Similarly, Williams seeks to be present and trust the ground beneath her feet. As an avid skydiver with over 600 jumps under her belt, she prefers skydiving barefoot.
“I like to bring [diving] back to a place where I’m doing it for the right reasons, like being in the moment, spending time with friends, just enjoying life and being outside,” Williams said. “It’s always a healthy reminder to check my ego at the door, literally, as I get on the plane.”
Williams emphasizes that the outdoors should be a space for every person and encourages nature experts to be inclusive rather than gatekeeping a universal experience — being part of Mother Nature.
“Whether it’s how to reserve a campsite or a permit for backcountry hiking, it’s important to have the mindset of, ‘How can I share information? How can I help other people safely get outside?’” Williams said. “Because that’s the first step to falling in love with the outdoors and becoming a conservationist. It all starts with that. If you are in a position to be able to share knowledge, please do.”
Offerman echoes that sentiment in his book, encouraging readers to re-establish their relationship with nature — an essential key to the health and wellbeing of an individual, community and the world.
“[The takeaway] is to slap us, including myself, soundly in the face and reawaken us to the fact that we should have a direct hand and knowledge in our relationship with nature,” he said. “One of the great ways to do that is to simply get [outside].”
If you’re interested in checking out TPL’s full Earth Day event, click here to watch.