Guest blogger to internet generation: go beyond social sharing to help wildlands

Kasey Rahn takes a photo of Glacier National Park on her iPhone from the Going-to-the-sun Road in Montana.

Abbey Dufoe

Our friend Abbey Dufoe, an environmental journalism grad student, explains how millennials can contribute to wilderness protection.

A few months ago, I wanted to vent about millennial-bashing in wilderness circles. An older wilderness protector, who later apologized to me, has said he has given up on our generation because he doesn’t think we can look away from our screens long enough to care about wilderness issues.

I was pretty mad. So I did what all writers do – I wrote a blog post about it. In that post, I provided a small call-to-action to older wilderness protectors: rather than focusing on our phone and social media as a bad thing, try using the power of the social web to mobilize us!

Here’s proof of that power:  Around the same time that I posted my blog, I tweeted using The Wilderness Society’s hashtag #wearethewild. Within a day, I heard from staff at The Wilderness Society who liked my post. Now I’m a guest blogger for The Wilderness Society. If that doesn’t show the power of the internet, I don’t know how else to explain it!

I’m not trying to bash anyone here, especially the baby boomers. After all, I was raised by a couple of great ones. My parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents were the ones who took me outside first, giving me all the tools to love and understand nature the way I do today (see how in my last post for the Wilderness Society).

ICYMI (short hand for “in case you missed it”), the millennials (age 18 to 33) have grown up. For example, I’m 23. That’s old enough to do everything adults do, or so my Dad says. So, like adults, its time we start taking a stand.

The root of the apparent-disconnect between older and younger wilderness generations comes from the way we 20-somethings see our adulthood. According to Pew Research Center data, millennials are disconnected from institutions, but still like to be involved in the greater good and do things that interest our friend group as a whole.

Abbey's sister Charlotte Dufoe sets up a shot for Instagram overlooking the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument outside of Taos, New Mexico

We’re politically independent. We’re religiously unaffiliated. We don’t even commit to other people – only 26% of us are married, compared to 36% of Gen Xers, 48% of Baby Boomers, and 65% of the Silent Generation. Pew found we are low on social trust, but upbeat about America’s future.

We also don’t like to be called “environmentalists,” mostly because unfortunately, it is sometimes used in a derogatory way. We want to save forests because they provide oxygen for us to breathe and a place of solace away from cities? Gross. We reuse our plastic containers for Tupperware because we don’t want the waste ending up in landfills? Despicable.

All kidding aside, all of these factors relate directly to protecting our public lands. Those of us who want to protect the wilderness started on social media, but now we can learn from older wilderness protectors.

Sometimes, we should get off our phones to do an actual protest instead of a pointed Facebook status update. On top of just signing internet petitions, we should also call our elected officials. Yes, it’s one extra step, but if we actually used our phones for their intended purpose (calling people, duh), our politicians would know how we feel about issues like wilderness protection.

On the Wilderness Society’s website, there is a great section on how to get involved. We can look up our representatives by zip code and call them to tell them how much we care about the Wilderness Society’s hot issues, including unwanted oil and gas development, greater outdoor recreation opportunities, and the protection of our wild places. There’s even a place to sign online petitions, sign up for WildAlerts, or connect with them on social media. And of course, you can hashtag #wearethewild during your crazy outdoor adventures or #keepitpublic to spread the wilderness love.

I went from one tweet and one hashtag to here, blogging for the Wilderness Society. Writing about our beliefs to the vast internet population is one way we millennials make a statement. But we can do better. So, I’m turning the tables and providing a call-to-action to us, the internet generation. Let’s actually do something about wilderness protection. Sure, it can start with some track pad clicks, but let’s talk to people about it too, shall we?

Abbey Dufoe is an environmental journalism graduate student at the University of Montana. Abbey is originally from the Philadelphia suburbs, but has fallen in love with the Rockies and never intends to leave. Don’t ask her what her favorite outdoor spot is – she wouldn’t be able to pick.

All photos courtesy of Abbey Dufoe.