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If Not Us, Then Who?

Posted on May 25 2017

Save for a few sign-touting tourists, the Vienna metro station was quiet the morning of the People’s Climate March. Anticipating the crowded masses that had swarmed the stations for the Women’s March, I arrived at 8 a.m. sharp. Unnecessary. I was in downtown D.C. within the hour.

 The plaza in front of the National Archives Building was not so sedentary. People stood in long lines to collect signs for the march. A girl dressed in a giant paper mache planet Earth circled past me. Handcraft birds suspended from long skewers floated in the sky. A Latino street band jammed on the corner. If not us, then who? read the lead singer’s shirt. In the distance, crowds of people with indigenous descent danced to the steady beat of a drum, their rhythmic chanting raising goose bumps along my arms.

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 Powerful. That’s the only word I can use to describe that day. I had never participated in any sort of protest before, short of a Save Darfur campaign back in high school. But this march felt different. There was a sense of unity among those 250,000 souls that I had never experienced before. It was a wholesome harmony that transcended all of the categories in which society tries to pigeonhole us—race, gender, class, creed, sexuality.

There were vegans and gay pride activists, outdoor industry leaders and alternative energy providers, all marching side-by-side with one simple message: we have but one Earth—fuck it up, and we fuck ourselves.

I admit that when I headed out of the nation’s capital that day, I felt emboldened, hopeful even. Which is why, come Monday morning, I was exceptionally distraught at the response Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s followers were leaving on an Instagram album I had posted from the march.

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“I prefer the beautiful photography of the outdoors and the people that head out, on foot, in kayaks, on bikes than silly protests,” read one comment. “Yea let's just stick to awesome outdoor pics and save the political BS for the articles in the magazine (that I bet most people don't even read),” read another.

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 The responses, mostly negative, kept pouring in.

My heart sank. That surge of hope I had felt just hours earlier melted into an ugly puddle of frustration. I felt so childish, so naïve to think readers of an outdoor publication would be supportive of a march that advocates for the continued protection of the natural resources we cherish so dearly. I couldn’t tell if I wanted to rip into each comment one-by-one or curl up in a dark closet with a blanket over my head.

Then, when I was surely at the deepest darkest pit of despair, the positive responses started trickling in.

“Thank your for the post and added awareness @blueridgeoutdoors. Protecting the environment WE ALL enjoy shouldn't be a political choice.” “Thank you @blueridgeoutdoors and @jessdaddio for standing up and advocating for our precious outdoors that are the feature of the beautiful photos that fill this feed and otherwise would not be here. Our beautiful playgrounds are not protected by passive double taps on a social platform, but with millions of voices speaking up, and yes marching when necessary to amplify our voice so it is heard.”

This is the endless battle that we as outdoor enthusiasts must face every day. This is the wrong that we must right, the misperception that protecting our forests, mountains, water, oceans, and air is a matter of left or right. To me, this is the single most dangerous opinion circulating in our world today.

Participants of the People’s Climate March could have very well thrown in the towel before Saturday morning even came around. That very week, hundreds of representatives from the outdoor industry flooded Capitol Hill to advocate for conservation and continued protection of our natural resources, to seemingly no avail. Just two days before the march, Trump ordered the Interior Department to review and reverse many national monument designations under the Antiquities Act.

Since then, he’s called for massive budget cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (by 31 percent, larger than any other agency). He’s proposed the elimination of several environmental programs that have done great work to restore the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Puget Sound. There’s no doubt he played a hand in the EPA wiping clean any mention of the words “climate change” on its website. His administration has not been shy about its support of increased offshore drilling, pipeline expansion, and the return of coal.

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The list, sadly, goes on and on.

So this is what I have to say.

We cannot be silent. We cannot be divided. We cannot assume. We cannot expect that our public lands, our clean drinking water, our fresh mountain air, will be there indefinitely. That is not guaranteed. The people of Prenter, West Virginia, and Flint, Michigan know this all too well. We must take it upon ourselves to be a thorn in the side, to be the voice of our mountains, our waterways, our communities. We must look further than the tips of our noses. We must work toward more than the money in our pockets. We must shine light on the injustices being played out in our forests.

Because if not us, then who?

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About the Writer:

Jess Daddio is the travel editor for Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. When she’s not writing or photographing, she can usually be found making cinnamon rolls from scratch or riding her bike.

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