City Wilderness

This tone def narrative has resulted in the marginalization of inner city communities all over America who have traditionally struggled with support, resources and meaningful inclusion in the outdoor space.

All too often we picture wilderness and or nature as being off in the distance, a faraway land where there is nothing but mountains and giant redwoods. We seldom think of nature as being out our front door, in the middle of traffic and city noises. And for many city dwellers, that is our daily dose of nature. There are beautiful spaces in the middle of big cities like San Francisco that are actually national park sites. The Presidio of San Francisco is the second most visited site in the makeup of the national park system, and is the final resting place for over 400 Buffalo Soldiers. These African American Army soldiers were tasked with guarding Yosemite against poachers, building roads and structures, some of which are still in use today. These men were newly freed slaves who joined the then segregated military as a means to show support for a country that once enslaved them and as a means to support themselves, beyond the more common role of sharecroppers. Not many visitors are aware of this. And the relevance is that these men were the very first rangers to patrol a national park, Yosemite.

So, when we imagine nature, in order to be more inclusive to the masses of underrepresented communities across the country, not only do we need to include more black and brown faces in our outdoor films and on social media platforms, but also in the staff makeup of outdoor organizations. We also need to see outdoor brands do a better job at representing communities of color in their marketing campaigns in addition to widening the scope of what we define and or envision as nature. Not only should we look to the wildness of Zion or Yellowstone, but also to the gentleness that is right in our own backyards and city parks. Being more inclusive of the outdoor spaces that we wander through on the daily, will bring more awareness to spaces that need protection. And that protection needs to come with all the speed we can conjure up, it cannot come quickly enough, as our outdoor spaces across the globe are under constant attack. Wildfires, floods, development and intentional abuse by those who do not see these spaces as majestic or as ancestral lands with spiritual meaning.

into the cold

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inner city wilderness

What can be more majestic than a towering waterfall, a family of giant redwoods or the roaring sounds of the Pacific Ocean? These are all the sights and sounds that makes up the “wildness” that we set out to find in our outdoor adventures. These are the places that filmmakers seek out for their adventure films, but for a moment, imagine a field of butterflies, wild parrots screeching across the skies, bobcats and deer running free, these too make up our wild landscapes, but can be and are found throughout city landscapes, landscapes that are home to tall buildings that house businesses that we cater to on the daily.An old abandoned building that once housed families, but now are rusted out shells with weeds growing up in the middle of what was once a bedroom. Not what we view as nature or wilderness, traditionally, but still serves as such for many. And just perhaps, inspires the eyes that visit these spaces, daily, to wander off to the more traditional nature landscapes, the exotic and faraway lands that need new eyes and depends on new eyes for protection.The old saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, holds true to most of my nature experiences because I see them on the daily, versus my time spent driving far distances to visit our amazing national parks across the country.I cherish those moments not because they hold more value, but because they are a constant reminder of why I do the work I do. But I’m also inspired by the beauty that is right outside my front door, when time doesn’t provide me the means to hop in my car and drive for hours for my daily dose of inspiration.

All too often we speed through our days, not taking the time to appreciate the beauty that is all around us.

Our days are filled with meetings and phone calls, we push aside idle time because we view it as a waste, non-productive, but those are the exact moments I seek out, the moments that bring me clarity and time to gather my thoughts. Let us slow down, set aside time to be still. Nature is a constant reminder of how in moments of stillness, we continue to grow.

If you are a brand or a nonprofit outdoor organization, you have a responsibility to help keep our wild spaces, wild.

You have a responsibility to make sure your staff, boards and marketing campaigns include communities who are not currently being represented as broadly as those whom you title your “customer base”. If you care about the places you ski, hike, climb and film, the right and just thing to do is widen your reach, make sure you are not underrepresenting communities that have been traditionally left out of dialogue around the protection of our outdoor spaces.

Widen your lens when it comes to defining wilderness. We all have a role to play in this work, let’s make sure we do a better job at telling the stories of nature and the people and places we describe in those stories.

We all have a role to play in this work, let’s make sure we do a better job at telling the stories of nature and the people and places we describe in those stories.


Photography Robert LeBlanc, Ben Scottorsano
Written essay Teresa Baker
Sponsors Holden, Allied Feather + Down