Give Stuff or Give an Experience

I was in REI today looking at ice axes when I noticed info on Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors which conducts programs that get inner city kids out into nature.

There are a few reasons that I believe in these kinds of programs and the people behind them. First, when I hear adults complain about feeling “trapped,” my sympathy is slim. What I remember most about being an adolescent is the rage I felt at being trapped in school, trapped in a suburb, trapped listening to boring, lazy, screwed-up adults telling me how things were gonna be. Kids have it rough because they’re stuck in the world that grownups construct. For this reason, I think that it’s important for them to have contact with nature. They need to see that there are more powerful and compelling forces in the world than their parents, their teachers, their school, their government, or their television. They need to see that there are alternatives to the bullshit that we push on them.

Second, most people who feel a connection to the natural world have had the privilege of exposure. That exposure, however, is more frequently awarded to kids growing up in Boulder than kids growing up in South Central. I don’t think that a given kid will necessarily feel a connection to mountains and oceans any more than they might feel a connection to, say, music or art. But I do think that kids equally deserve that exposure, regardless of their zip code.

Finally, I think it’s clear that people who have slept under the stars are more likely to be concerned about air pollution and those who know the way that tree bark feels beneath their fingertips are more likely to fight against deforestation. We’ll do future generations a favor by fostering environmental stewards among the kids who are growing up right now. We do them an even greater favor by making sure that the eco-conscious voices of the future represent a broad range of ideas, concerns, and perspectives (i.e. not just the ideas, concerns, and perspectives coming out of Boulder).

So…tis’ the season to give crap to people who already have lots of crap. Or you could give an experience to kids that you don’t even know.