By Jeremy Su
I have normally been someone who refrains from making things political, if I felt like it wasn’t necessary. At times, I found that it was easier to refrain from thinking or talking about certain topics. Equity and inclusion in hiking and outdoor recreation was one of those things.
Over time, I realized how wrong I was in my thinking. I was hiding behind my own privilege, taking advantage of the outdoors, while others don’t have the same opportunity. I tried convincing myself that my actions of stewardship would be enough, that my money and time would return the favor to the public lands and organizations running them. Yet, I never advocated for equal outdoor access for all people, especially those in underprivileged areas. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I could have given a solid definition of what advocacy was.
That was all until I got involved with American Hiking Society as a NextGen Trail leader earlier this year. I heard of the Hike the Hill event throughout our initial meetings, but it still felt very foreign to me. What was I supposed to talk to a Senate staffer about? How was I supposed to change their mind?
Going into the meeting, I had many reservations about what I was going to talk about, if I had the right answers to their questions, or if I even agreed with all the acts that I was supposed to be supporting. It became clear that these acts aren’t an end all, be all to solve the divide of those in the outdoors, rather a step in the right direction. With more conversation and support, these acts could help transform the outdoor industry while also preserving the environment. After my meeting, I realized that showing up, sharing my experiences, and talking about these issues are necessary first steps in making a change.