How millennials can save wilderness (and the planet)

I don’t have to take a Buzzfeed quiz to know I am the stereotypical millennial.

Okay, okay, I did take a PEW Research Center quiz. Questions included whether I have a cell phone, landline or both (I only have a cell phone), whether I watch an hour of TV per day (Netflix, duh), and whether I read the newspaper regularly (I don’t). Electronics attached to limbs is the stereotypical definition of a millennial.

On a normal day, I watch TV on my iPad, text my friends on my iPhone and answer e-mails on my computer, sometimes all at once.

This is why some older wilderness protectors seem to have lost faith in us, the technologically-savvy, sassy-mouthed, social networking-obsessed generation. But what happens when you can harness that power to help save Earth’s most pristine places?

Being a millennial, I obviously have an Instagram account – who doesn’t these days? While some of my peers would rather post a drunken selfie, I post my outdoor adventures, most of them #nofilter.

Did you hear that? I take my iPhone into the wilderness and share my photos with my Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Instagram acquaintances.

Some of my millennial friends just like the post. Others comment on how beautiful the landscape is. Others text me in jealousy. Yes, my selfie-obsessed, East Coast suburban-living group of friends is jealous of my cliff dangling Utah trip, day hikes in Glacier National Park, and snowy walks along the continental divide.

After arguing with someone at the Society of Environmental Journalist’s conference in New Orleans in September about how he has no faith in our generation, I have taken a new stance: these older-generation wilderness lovers and guardians should use their power to mobilize us.

Some have already done so. The Wilderness Society has a hashtag – #wearethewild – with over 1500 posts on Instagram as I write this. REI and Backpacker Magazine also have hashtags to promote sharing love of wilderness through photos.

Instead of bashing us for taking Buzzfeed quizzes or getting our news from Twitter instead of regular news outlets, use your power to mobilize us. We care about things, one of those things being the outdoors, and you can help us make a difference in protecting the wild lands you have been trying to hard to keep. And not only do we care, but we care enough to sign petitions. All. The. Time. We’re also starting to vote more.

I want to include a shoutout to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have taken me out into the wilderness. Because of them, I have explored in 44 states, 13 National Parks, and countless State Parks, wilderness areas and outdoor places. Because of them, I aspire to take everyone outside with me.

So instead of putting us down, help us help you. We are your sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and we care about protecting the planet and beautiful places as much as you do. All you have to do is help us get started.

25 thoughts on “How millennials can save wilderness (and the planet)

    1. Great question! I think we are split down the middle. Some think bicycles shouldn’t count as motorized vehicles and should be allowed. Others believe that “untrammeled” should be carried out until the end of time. I’m leaning toward the latter, although I can see it changing.

      1. Thank you for responding! Well, first thing… bicycles aren’t “motorized” 😉 It takes a lot of human power to make them go (and stay upright!). Secondly, “untrammeled” does not mean the same thing as “untrampled”… it means the land is uncontrolled and unrestricted by man (no buildings, dams, roads, logging, etc.). So whether one explores Wilderness on foot, on horse or pedaling a bicycle, the Wilderness will remain untrammeled. FWIW, I see it changing too… once a lot of old people pass on. They didn’t like these new contraptions called “mountain bikes” (back in the 70’s-80’s), so they succeeded in getting them banned from our most wild places. I’d think that young people who have grown up with mt. bikes as part of every day life wouldn’t have such a visceral reaction to them, especially if many millennials are cyclists themselves!

        1. I understand that bicycles aren’t technically, by definition, motorized, but according to the Wilderness Act, they fall under section 4c: “Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act prohibits the use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, motorboats, landing of aircraft, and all other forms of mechanical transport.” And you got me on the untrammeled part – I always get them mixed up! I agree – I’m more a hiker myself, but if the bikes stay on trails, I see no problem with them.

      2. I can’t seem to reply to your latest comment (page isn’t wide enough?), so I’ll reply here again. Many people believe the wording of Section 4(c) only intended to restrict truly motorized types of travel (also called “mechanized” in those times). Strictly interpreted, it would also preclude cross country skiing, row boats, climbing gear, and even modern shock-absorbing walking poles… as they all provide a mechanical “transport” advantage.

        It’s nice to hear you are open minded on the subject! While I don’t believe bicycles need to be allowed on all trails in the Wilderness, excluding cyclists completely does eliminate a large number of enthusiastic, human powered Wilderness advocates. And fortunately, since trails in the rugged backcountry can be challenging enough on a mountain bike, going off-trail on a bicycle is much less likely to happen than it does on foot.

        Thank you for sharing this blog and topic. It gives me faith that our most cherished places will be in good hands in the future 😀

    1. Thanks for the comment, John! I would love to chat about that. I think the first step is the policy makers and “old farts” using our power of social media to help show people, namely our generation, that these places exist. Hopefully, that will create a younger community of wilderness stewards who can help carry the torch.

  1. Are the workers that make your IPads, IPhones etc paid well, or are the suicide nets still up at Foxconn? Living small doesn’t mean a tiny house made by a poorly paid offshore worker. Vote with you wallets, the most powerful ballot you have.

  2. You are awesome! I was smiling the entire way through while reading this. You are a wonderful representation to our generation. I completely agree with what you said, and hope you continue to do just what you’re doing, because you are doing amazing!

  3. As best as I can tell, the old farts before me felt they were saving the planet (gosh, now that I think about it, I think they DID save the planet!), my generation thought we were saving the planet, and now you can save the planet. Oh well, as long as we’re saving the planet.

  4. Reblogged this on montanan millennial notebook and commented:
    Props to this writer for making a strong point.
    I love the landscapes from my home state, Montana, they’re the reason I care about environmental issues, and have kept me to figure out a lot of things in this world. My generation (Gen Y), gets a ton of shit blamed on for being obsessive with social media, I understand that, but how is that helping the problem? Do not tell me my generation has a problem if you are on Facebook every day and doing the same thing as we do with ourselves. I am tired of the older generations putting is down and having no faith in the future. Seriously dudes, you don’t even know who we are, because your people refuse to have us help you. We are more educated and have more resources than any other generation, so wake up, get off your ass, and let the millennials lead the movement.

  5. Reblogged this on Committed to the Quest and commented:
    Election got you down? Climate deniers in command? Planet in peril? To the dismay of many progressives, the most populous generation in history hardly showed up at the polls, but there remains vast potential in their collective voice and heart. Here University of Montana graduate student Abbey Dufoe suggests that the generations ahead of her can help hers save wild places by mobilizing the millennials. I think she’s right.

  6. One of the main things that old wilderness protectors,as well as old writers and editors, think about Millennials (especially those who blog, which seems to be a high percentage) is that they can scarcely pass a syllable without using some manner of first-person pronoun, as you did 10 times in your first two paragraphs.

    1. Even though it was more like 8 times, old wilderness protectors shouldn’t see that as a red flag. This blog is about me, so I’m going to talk about me. The importance is in the message, not how it gets delivered.

      1. Thanks for bringing this up, Maxwell.

        Congrats, John, for having a published piece in HCN, but it is a personal essay in first person, as I’m sure you’re aware. This is where part of the problem lies – I’m trying to project my opinion, on my own personal blog about something we both believe in, but instead of lifting me up you’re putting me down.

        You blog, I blog, everybody blogs. You write in first person, I write in first person, everybody writes in first person. You’re a writer, I’m a writer, everybody is a writer. Lets all keep doing what we’re doing, AND support one another.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s