'We Will Conserve Only That Which We Love'
Los Angeles County native Dave Fujiyama got turned onto the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings program (ICO) while he was teaching middle school in South-Central L.A. in 2002.
"We had a Yosemite Club on campus," he says, "but we only went on one trip per year. So when another teacher mentioned ICO to me, I thought, 'Hey, let's hook it up with the Yosemite Club and we can take more trips.'"
Fujiyama began leading ICO trips through the Sierra Club's Angeles Chapter the following year. "ICO reminded me of Boy Scouts during my own school days," he says. "I had so many great scouting leaders who taught me so much and gave me confidence in my outdoor skills; I figured it was time to repay that debt."
Now an ICO leader in Orange County, where he teaches high school science, Fujiyama says his love of the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts. "The reason I'm comfortable walking out into the backcountry now is that I did it as a Scout. I learned how to eat and sleep comfortably in the wild, what equipment to take, how to make a fire. It's important that kids learn these kinds of skills." Below, Fujiyama (in red shirt at lower left) leads a recent ICO trip in Orange County.
"When a child realizes that he or she can choose a comfortable campsite; sleep warm and still see the stars from the sleeping bag; poop in the woods and do it safely and cleanly; walk into the wilderness with their home on their back and stay both safe and comfortable… well, we've just given that kid the skills to enjoy the natural world for the rest of their life."
"Inner city folks don't get as many opportunities to really experience what it means to stand in a meadow and listen to the deafening quiet," he says. "But ICO is important not just to inner city kids. Every child deserves an opportunity to experience the backcountry; to realize that everything they need to survive the week is on their backs; to appreciate the interdependence of each member of a hiking team; to love and appreciate the bonds that form between hikers when we wander the wilderness together."
Fujiyama, now a Biology, Physical (Earth) Science, and Advanced Placement Environmental Science teacher at Bolsa Grande High School in Orange County, is also an advisor to the school's Wilderness Adventures Club. He quotes the club's motto, borrowed from Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum:
"For in the end,
we will conserve only that which we love;
we will love only that which we understand;
and we will understand only that which we have been taught."