Young people at Berkeley America’s Great Outdoors listening session discuss conservation. Photo by Jennifer Boggs.
On July 23, federal officials heard an earful from about 125 teens and young adults - 16 to 25 years old – who participated in an America’s Great Outdoors listening session in Berkeley, CA. It was clear they wanted to have their opinions heard: some traveled from as far away as Sacramento and San Jose to attend the Friday afternoon session.
For two hours, the participants broke into small groups of ten to talk about the outdoors.
The official questions posed by group moderators ranged from: “Why do you like to be in the great outdoors?” to “What do you want to recommend to the Obama administration to further the goals of America’s Great Outdoors?”
Many youth - especially those from low-income urban families who traditionally don’t get to experience nature – gave answers that were both honest and practical. One San Francisco teen made this clear when he jokingly quipped, “I’m tired of Disneyland being the only Happiest Place on Earth.”
Several teens said much more needs to be done to educate young people about the outdoors and recreation because many just don’t have a connection with nature, Some of the very practical suggestions I heard included:
1) utilize media and advertising to spread the word about the great outdoors,
2) get kids outside through public school programs, and 3) promote access by public transportation to the outdoors from urban centers.
At the end of the listening session, I think both federal officials and young people learned a little bit more about the huge challenge – and immense responsibility – of protecting our country’s beautiful lands.
It’s about a lot more than just getting kids engaged with nature to have fun outside. If we want to preserve our rivers and oceans, our forests and deserts, there is a crucial need to introduce young people who will love the outdoors enough to eventually act as stewards of nature for the next generation and those that follow.
Photo: Young people at Berkeley America’s Great Outdoors listening session discuss conservation. Photo by Jennifer Boggs.