What's your "outside?"

What's your "outside?"

For me, sustainability goes hand in hand with my love for backpacking and the outdoors. I've been fortunate enough to explore some amazing places already in my lifetime, and one of the big reasons we love where we live is our access to the outside world.

My 9 year old son does a daily reflection at school, usually based on a quote, and when I had the opportunity to go through the latest batch, this one obviously stuck out. 

          “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” -Rachael Carson

Reflection from my son... "If you want to destroy something, you won’t if you look closely at it. If you find something you think is gross or does not look good, look closer. If you want to build a town, but there’s a waterfall where you want to build the town, don’t get rid of the waterfall because it lets animals drink." 

As a cultural anthropologist who focused on researching diaspora communities and teaching in diverse settings, knowing "the other," reaching your hand across the table allows humans to feel connection. Connection most often leads to understanding and respect. Just as those connections work with humans, they also work with the human environment interaction. If you know it, you will take good care of it. 

If you aren't familiar with Rachel Carson...Her most 'famous' and groundbreaking book is Silent Spring.  From the Rachel Carson non profit website, "Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson reluctantly changed her focus in order to warn the public about the long-term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring (1962) she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world." Previously working as a marine biologist, she went out of her comfort zone to share her detrimental findings.

(In a similar vein, I recently watched Dark Waters (2019) on Netflix and loved it...minus the whole immense lingering frustration. It focuses on the story of the lawyer and farmer who brought to light the DuPont Company's use of toxic PFOAs. Similarly, this is a great article in the New Yorker about 3M's horrifying decades long cover up.....Clearly didn't have any time in nature!)

I digress per usual....how do you find yourself interacting with the environment? Maybe you're 'outdoorsy,' maybe you're 'indoorsy.' Maybe outside time looks like backpacking in the Whites, on the slopes (check out non-profit @protectourwinters) maybe it's on a surfboard, maybe it's just wading through a tidepool, maybe it's in your garden, maybe it's birdwatching, maybe it's reading in front of a window...(Do golf courses count?....IDK).

The connection with nature is SO important and countless studies prove the cognitive benefits of connection with our natural environment (decreased anxiety, better mood, better memory and more). Even "urban parks and trees also produce positive outcomes. Just like a little exercise is better than none, we should take­ advantage of green and blue spaces wherever and whenever we can." While this can just look like having a picnic outside, we are lucky enough to have Explore Pediatric Therapy, which offers nature based OT programs, as well as enrichment programs, right here on the South Shore. In addition to their therapeutic options, they offer many enrichment services, including Summer Camps, a Toddler Playgroup, and a Forest Adventures Group. Owned by South Shore resident, Kim DeLaura, they "strive to educate and empower families throughout the South Shore with expert guidance driven by evidenced based research." Much of their mission is centered around disease prevention (nationally many preventative pediatric disease rates are continually climbing). Their services reflect this mission and "looks like spending more time outdoors, not being over scheduled with commitments, spending more time in large group mixed aged environments and building in free play on a regular basis."

So while the FCSC side might promote the exploration of nature from our protecting our natural world side, Explore Pediatric Therapy uses those concepts to promote healthy and regulated bodies and minds. 

One cool global movement is called 1000 Hours Outside (note it is a for profit organization). I think the name is pretty self explanatory...As a parent I want to instill a life long love of the outdoors in my kids. It may not look the same as my happy place in the wilderness or at a barn, but that's okay, There truly is 'something for everyone.' Do my kids spend more time on a screen than I would care to admit? yup...Do I spend more time on a screen than I would care to admit? yup... do my kids sometimes fight me when I say we're going for a walk? (which I teasingly call a forced march) Absolutely. Are they happy about 5 minutes in? 99% of the time. 

While some of us have a greater access to the outdoors than others, and while money can provide more options and experimentation in terms of activities, the outdoors is for EVERYONE. Some great folks that have been forging those paths in marginalized or unrepresented communities are:

Pattiegonia, an advocate and environmentalist, particularly within the LGTBQIA+ community. 

More semi-locally, the Kindling Collective offers a queer-centered gear library based out of Portland Maine.

Within the Black (and Boston!) community, one of my favorite writers/follows is Mardi Fuller/ @wherelocsflyfree

YES Boston is an amazing organization that has been getting kids outside since 1968, currently serving over 1,600 kids annually.

(There are so many great organizations out there, many of which I am unfamiliar with....but a few more rounded up here on Outside)

So "Opt-Outside," as REI coined, but know that that doesn't have to look the same for everyone, but slowing down and opting outside in any way, shape, or form DOES benefit your mind, your body, AND your connection and commitment to this planet. Channeling Mark Boles, founder of Intrinsic Provisions, who embodied, "What's Intrinsic to You?" Thank you Mark for your legacy.


How do you like to get outside?


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