It may seem strange that a climate collaborative is hosting a panel discussion on recreation, economic recovery, and equity. What in the world does any of this have to do with climate change and adaptation? The answer is everything.
Recreation is frequently the economic engine in rural mountain towns, and COVID-19 has had a whiplash effect on those economies. Early shutdowns brought the ski industry grinding to a halt, and with it, much of the visitorship that communities like Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Lakes rely on to close out the season with positive cash flow.
However, with the arrival of summer, mountain communities are seeing an unceasing flow of visitors come to ride bikes, swim, camp, and hike all over the Sierra Nevada. Previously remote campsites and backcountry wilderness areas are seeing higher rates of visitors than ever before, simply because of two factors. People want to do things, and outdoor recreation is a low-risk activity. Groups that would normally spend their summer weekends going to concerts or baseball games or festivals are finding that outdoor recreation is one of the few avenues left open. So when the mountains call, they must go.
Set against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a global pandemic that has laid bare systemic racism and economic inequities, the current climate begs the question of how to make the outdoors accessible for everyone, not just for people with the means to buy expensive equipment and take time off work for multi-day excursions. How can people in mountain communities be part of the solution in breaking down barriers for people of color to more equitably access the outdoors as it transforms from one option among many to the only option for being active?
As part of our racial and climate justice commitment, Sierra CAMP wants to explore and implement solutions. The reason is multi-faceted. This panel discussion aims to explore the nexus of recreation, economies, and equity, and climate change is the common thread that runs through those three elements. Recreation depends on a livable climate, and communities in our region rely on recreation for healthy economic activity, which has become all the more important as local governments see resources strained by shutdowns and reallocated toward pandemic response.
And because there is no climate justice until there is racial justice, equity must be considered in all of these conversations. There is no just recovery without direct solutions aimed at addressing systemic racism and oppression. And at the heart of this discussion is the question of sustainability – how do mountain communities become welcoming to all while maintaining the quality of their public lands and natural spaces? There has to be a solution, and we want to be part of building it.
Sierra CAMP’s parent organization, Sierra Business Council, does have a substantial track record in policy-driven change and collaboration. Our organization’s work on Proposition 68 in 2018 was key to ensuring that regional interests were well-represented while helping address larger issues at hand for the state. We hope to build the foundation of understanding for collaboratively creating and implementing solutions, and we sincerely hope you’ll join us.
Register here for our virtual discussion panel taking place from 12:30-2pm on Monday, August 24th.
Core to Sierra Business Council’s mission is our commitment to being a triple bottom line organization so it’s only natural that we would lead an effort to help small businesses adopt these principles. A triple bottom line business considers more than just economic results or profit. They also value their impact on society and the environment. We often refer to these businesses as “sustainable” or “green” and research shows that they typically deliver superior customer service, score higher in job satisfaction, and perform better financially.
As you know, California witnessed its worst wildfire season on record in 2020. Over 4 million acres burned, costing us more than 10,000 homes and buildings and at least 33 lives (not to mention the long-term negative health impacts of the dense smoke experienced across the state). Wildfire is a natural part of California’s landscape, but today’s wildfires are out of balance due to a century of fire suppression and misguided forest management. As climate change accelerates the risk of extreme wildfire, 2020 could be the start of our new normal. In 2021, we have an opportunity to keep that from happening. If we take action now, we can help protect our communities and restore the health of our forests.
Sierra CAMP, a program of Sierra Business Council, is currently undertaking a regional vulnerability assessment to examine how Sierra Nevada communities will be affected by projected climate changes. We have already seen the massive impact that climate change can have in its multiple forms on our communities in the mountains.
It was a seemingly straightforward question from a close friend of mine, “Why are these wildfires getting worse and what are we doing about it”? At some point during my stammering, convoluted, and completely uninsightful response I realized that my job leads me to dig so deeply into the nuanced details of issues like wildfire and climate change that I’m awful at explaining what the heck is going on to anyone outside of my professional bubble.