Several weeks ago I made the middling drive from Madison to Chicago. On a round Joy Trip of about 300 miles I journeyed south to meet up with two old friends to hear their story of adventure. Robby ReChord and Scott Briscoe were in town to present a slide show at the downtown Patagonia store on their ascent of the highest peak in North America, Mount McKinley also called Denali. As part of a team of African-American climbers Robby and Scott aimed to share their experiences in the hopes inspiring new generation of minority youth to follow their example and seek out adventures of their own.
I probably know this narrative better than most. Having written a book and co-produced a film on this American ascent it’s always thrilling for me to see and hear the reaction of those learning about it for the first time. After all that was point. This ambitious project of the National Outdoor Leadership School known as Expedition Denali was meant from its inception to be spread far and wide to engage a new audience in a discussion that explores the role people of color will likely play in the long-term preservation of the environment and the creation of a human society that is ultimately sustainable for decades, even centuries to come.
I was particularly pleased on this trip to make the acquaintance of Kate Cummings, the managing editor of Questions for a Resilient Future. This scholarly journal published by the Chicago-based environmental think-tank the Center For Humans & Nature asks some of the most talented and insightful minds of our times to address broad topics of inquiry to help us to understand how each of us relates to the natural world around us. Over wine and cheese following Robby’s inspiring talk Kate asked me to contribute an answer to her tome’s latest question.
How is nature critical to a 21st century urban ethic? Within the context of my limited expertise as an outdoor industry professional of more than 20 years and a decade of work as a journalist with a speciality in diversity on the topic of outdoor recreation I made the case for the importance of getting more people who dwell in cities to spend time in the outdoors. Using Expedition Denali as the focus of my argument my response to the question addresses the many themes outlined in my forthcoming book on this critical issue, a work of historical non-fiction called The Adventure Gap.
It’s my hope that by directly engaging in these weighty discussions we can work toward the creation of worthwhile and viable solutions. In the company of such revered and passionate intellectuals I am incredibly honored to be part of the noble effort to speak to those critical challenges of today that will directly impact the quality of our lives tomorrow. Please share your thoughts.
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