Thursday, April 23, 2009

Doing Our Part

Wednesday was Earth Day. Many people look forward to this global celebration, which began nearly forty years ago on April 22, 1970 - a date which is widely recognized as the beginning of the modern environmental movement. It's a day when we all can pause and reflect on our role in the world, on our impact on the planet, and on the world we wish to pass on to our children. It's a day to reform bad habits and embrace new ones - a day to commit to turning off the tap while we brush our teeth, carpooling to work, replacing inefficient windows and light bulbs, switching to reusable grocery bags, recycling, and more. For some it's a day to celebrate a vision of a healthier planet; for others it's a day to bemoan the failures of mankind.

Walking through New York City's Grand Central Terminal this morning, I was reminded of these conflicting perspectives. Hundreds of hustling people - including myself - paused in the Main Concourse to gaze at a projection show displayed on the terminal's massive pillars as part of the city's week-long Earth Day NY celebration. Images of snow leopards, glaciers, and rainforests clashed with shots of polluted skies, landfills, and dirty, overfished oceans; smiles turned to sighs and shaken heads; and troubling statistic after troubling statistic played across the wall. Did you know that an area larger than New York City is deforested every day, and that the average American consumes more than 600 lbs. of paper every year? Or that we could reduce our consumption of oil by 100,000 barrels per day if we all took the time to properly inflate the tires on our cars?

Intermingled with these startling and disturbing facts were inspiring, hopeful words from some of the world's greatest minds, leaders like Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. Those of Edmund Burke, an 18th century Irish statesmen and philosopher, particularly struck me:

"Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could do only a little."

I think he's right.

We all can do our part - however small it may seem - to be better stewards of the planet and our communities. Whether making smarter choices as consumers, practicing Leave No Trace in the outdoors, volunteering for the environment, or starting an eco-friendly business (check out TerraCycle and its exciting successes with "upcycling"), our individual efforts all add up to produce real results.

I think Wilderness Volunteers is living proof of that. Through the collective efforts of our volunteers, WV has contributed since its founding in 1997 more than 180,000 hours of volunteer labor - improving trails, revegetating wilderness, eradicating invasive species, removing fences, and more - in hundreds of wild places in need of our support.

And it all started with a few volunteers and a few trips and a few trails. There's still far more to be done and no shortage of work in sight, and we look forward to working with you to do our part - on and off the trail.

Thanks to everyone who's "given something back!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Faced with global warming, can wilderness remain natural?

For those who think of nature as a wild, unspoiled Eden that preserves the natural flora and fauna free from human interference, global warming has a nasty surprise in store. In his new book, "Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming" (Island Press, 2009), Anthony Barnosky says that because of climate change, wilderness left to its own will no longer look like the natural areas we see today. Our conservation strategies must be rethought, he adds, because business-as-usual will not preserve all the aspects of nature we have come to know, love and respect.

Robert Sanders has an excellent review of Barnosky's book on the Internet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Trail Less Traveled...

"Cross-Cutting" in the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness, ID/WY (2007)

Sunday's New York Times has a captivating article on "America's Outback: Southern Utah," which prominently features the expansive 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the nearly 400 square miles of sandstone canyons, cliffs, domes, and monoliths that comprise Capitol Reef National Park. Retracing the adventurous 1872 journey of John Wesley Powell and 18-year old New Yorker Frederick Dellenbaugh into this vast, unexplored desert, the article reveals some of the Southwest's best-kept secrets, which today - as then - often go overlooked, hidden within the formidable shadows of their more popular neighbors in the Grand Canyon, Arches, and Zion.

Traveling to different parts of the country, I've found that is often the case, as I've explored some spectacular places that have never been mentioned alongside the big-name destinations like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali, Acadia, Glacier, and more. Unsurprisingly, it is the lesser-known and lesser-explored parks, forests, and wilderness areas - like Utah's Escalante and Capitol Reef - that need the most support from volunteers, and it is in these very places that Wilderness Volunteers does some of its most important work. Through my own adventures in New Mexico's Gila National Forest, Virginia's Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Colorado's Maroon Bells, California's Inyo National Forest, and New Hampshire's Pemigewasset Wilderness , I have discovered that hidden gems surround us, beckoning us to explore them. All we have to do is open our eyes to them, step forward, and begin walking.

Removing Fence in the Klamath Nat'l Wildlife Refuge, CA (2004)

Wilderness Volunteers has a treasure trove of 2009 projects like these in need of volunteers willing to explore...or rather explorers willing to volunteer. Check them out, and, like Powell, Dellenbaugh, and company, see what hidden gems you can discover.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

EMS Club Day - April 18th

Wilderness Volunteers will be at Eastern Mountain Sports' (EMS) Club Day in Paramus, NJ on Saturday April 18th passing out brochures, stickers, and spreading the word about the work we do across the country. Come by to learn more, say hello, or even stick around and help out if you've got some time to spare. We're always looking for new volunteers and leaders.

All current members/volunteers of WV - or any outdoor club - receive 20% off their entire purchase. Not yet a member? Donate $10 to WV in the store and receive a coupon for 20% off. Can't make it to New Jersey? Head to your local EMS; we won't be there, but you can still save on your new gear.

Club Day weekend runs from April 17th-18th.

Here's a map:

Eastern Mountain Sports
820 Route 17 North
Paramus, NJ

Hope to see you there!