Opinion: We Need to Fight For More Than The Environment

words :: Ben Osborne.

The outdoor community’s efforts to stand up for the environment has been well documented, and we love it—but right now, we all need to do more. That means stepping outside of our bubble and fighting for something that doesn’t affect most of us, and most of us can’t even begin to understand.

I was born into what I realize today is an unbelievable amount of privilege and opportunity. At the age of 14, I was sent to a boarding school (by choice) that afforded me the opportunity to snowboard every day at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.

The days blended together mostly, but one day sticks out—and that was National Ski Week for the National Brotherhood of Skiers. Over a three day period, hundreds of thousands of African American skiers and snowboarders would descend upon ski resorts across the US, and for a kid who grew up in one of the most predominantly white states in the U.S. (Vermont), dedicating every second of free time in the winter to snowboarding, seeing a different colour of skin under a pair of goggles was always a novelty. Then and now, I knew one thing—it shouldn’t be.

To explore wild places like this is just one example of white prvilege—let’s use that white privilege to help others. Photo: Chris Christie

I was raised to have an open mind. In the ultra-progressive town of Burlington, Vermont, most of the people I was surrounded by were the same. It didn’t seem like I was surrounded by any racism, and often times as privileged white people, we can use the outdoors as a way to get away from the real problems going on in the world—which is exactly what I’ve done for most of my life. Sure, the outdoors are an amazing way to escape: they bring people together, offer opportunities for mental clarity and plenty of positive health benefits—but an underlying problem is their ability to allow people to avoid facing the realities of the world that millions of others face.

article continues below

The truth is, we’re disconnected. We live in tiny towns that face relatively insignificant social problems compared to the struggled of people in inner cities. We live in homogenous communities where most people are agreeable—and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, we have to realize that we are lucky, and we should use our lack of calamity to help others.

For many outdoor enthusiasts, advocating for the environment is a way to make ourselves feel like we are giving back, and by fighting for awareness on climate change we gain the respect of our peers. Companies that give back to fighting against climate change are prioritized and respected by outdoor enthusiasts—but it’s time that we start paying attention to more than just the climate.

While it’s an undeniably important issue, it’s time we step outside our bubble, and, hopefully, by focusing on other issues we bring others in. Instead of being a sideshow not taken seriously and worried only about our snowpack and warming temperatures, we have the ability to insert ourselves in conversations surrounding social justice, equal rights, and the unfair treatment of people of colour all over the world.

With the recent events going on in the United States, we’ve seen brands step up and get messaging out there that the outdoor community stands for those who have been disenfranchised. Plenty of athletes have done the same, and now it’s up to every individual in our community and beyond to help spread that message and live the message you preach.

It’s up to you to carry the momentum and fight for those who aren’t worried about if they’ll get the newest mountain bike next year, but those who are worried about being profiled because of the colour of their skin. With our unbelievable amount of privilege comes a responsibility of awareness for much more than the climate, and it’s time as a community we started to take action. —ML