Making a Difference in DC
My first day in Washington D.C. was a little hectic. Upon arriving we went to see a great movie about the outdoors. I watched videos of people doing extreme sports (like slacklining over a 200 foot drop without any safety ropes), but what really made it amazing was that it showcased their passion for what they do. Even when a group of friends were sleeping in -40 F temperature, one of them still was trying to joke around.
Then, the next day we got an overview of what this week was about. Somoene told us an anecdote that really summarized our goals: he narrated about a person tossing starfish from the beach back into the ocean to save them from drying up. He was making only a small difference (there were thousands of starfish), but he said that it definitely made a difference to the ones he did help. We are only staying here in the city for a couple of days, but the small difference we can make does matter.
Consequently, I learned more the growing problem of children not only not getting enough exercise, but also that children on average are only getting seven minutes of unstructured play a day (versus 5-7 hours spent with electronics). Because of this, kids are less and less acquainted with the natural environment. As they grow older, they also are less likely to want to protect and conserve the land. In addition, obesity rates have shot up. In an office, I saw a chart that showed Colorado being the state with the least obesity (19%), yet a staff member explained a decade or so ago, that would have made Colorado have the highest rate. This problem is especially true of urban areas. But it is a problem here in the mountains also. I myself never really paid interest in the surrounding mountains until I was introduced to it through SOS Outreach.
In three days I saw and heard so many stories from people from all over the country who came to make sure that the outdoors remains usable and accessible for everyone. Our group walked around (a few times running around) Capitol Hill meeting with House Representatives and three Senators. I caught a glimpse of how the government works. For example, a couple of times, we met not with the actual representative, but a staff member who took notes and gathered information to later present it to the appropriate person. There were other groups of people including veterans, other youth, and other organizations who came also to advocate for the outdoors.
Paco Holguin is a graduate of SOS Outreach and lives in Vail, Colorado. He participated in Great Outdoors America Week as a Sierra Club Delegate.