I’ve just returned from southern Chile - an expedition that has truly altered my mindset on several important issues. The land there is untouched and pristine – and wild places are being guarded by initiatives through people like the founders of Patagonia, the North Face, and even the company with whom we traveled – Bio Bio expeditions. They're partnering with the Chilean government to purchase enormous parcels of land - millions of acres at a time - that are in turn being set aside for conservation, recreation, and preservation. More locally to our expedition, the people of Chile’s Futaleufu Valley with whom we seamlessly integrated due to their welcoming and familial spirit demonstrate a palpable sense of respect for their land, feeling honored to call the place home.
I watched Chilean kids who literally use oxen teams to harvest fire wood for the upcoming winter that's being stacked next to the simple homes they've built using hand tools who are learning to kayak class V whitewater. How magical it was to watch as "Pauli", a 4th generation Futaleufu valley native - paddled the rapids of the mighty Fu for the first time ever, so that he could watch his young son kayak. I felt a sense of pride as his boy - who had changed out of his hand-knit wool vest and into a Gore-Tex dry-top at the put-in - rolled up at the bottom of an intense class V rapid with a smile on his face as his father cheered and clapped from the boat. A few nights later, we gathered after a traditional asado dinner and listened to elder Carlo belt out a song about the Futaleuful while strumming his guitar - full of beautiful lyrics that pay homage to this place. It was inspiring to watch as one generation guides the next to become products of the place – which in turn becomes a product of its’ people. The stewards care for the land, and the land provides for the people. It’s an absolutely beautiful cycle.
Contrast that to home – where people appointed to lead our nation's Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have publicly expressed skepticism regarding climate change; where sacred places are desecrated in the name of corporate profit and greed; where federal lands once protected for many of the same reasons that the family of Doug Tompkins (The North Face), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), and others are devoting their own assets to preserving in Patagonia are on the chopping block here for oil and gas exploration, and where maintaining clean air and clean water aren't a part of "making America great again." Those concerns center around land use - and don't even get into the familial, communal, welcoming spirit we felt from the locals. Most alarming of all isn't the fact that these things are happening - it's that we, the people, are sitting idly and waiting for the next shocking headline. At GOALS, we don't have the financial resources to purchase and protect millions of acres of land. We don't know how to change minds in Washington or effectively lobby at the state or federal level, but we do know how to profoundly impact many groups of youngsters who currently have their heads too far buried in the latest version of whatever they’ve just downloaded from the App Store to recognize what's being done to the land that they'll ultimately become a product of. These are the grassroots seeds that must be planted, and we need your help - today - to serve as many of them as possible.
We MUST make a change – one kids at a time – one GOALS expedition at a time. With just 5 days left before the 7th annual "Get Up & Get Down to Get Kids Out" Vertical Challenge ski-a-thon fundraiser, this is a call to action asking every GOALS supporter to over-exist and to make a difference. Whether you can join us on the hill at Winter Park on Saturday or not, please create your own peer-to-peer fundraising page for the 2017 GOALS Vertical Challenge here, then send a similar call-to-action email out to anyone you know who won't sit by idly and watch from the sidelines as empathy and ignorance allow for devastating consequences to be enacted on the places and activities that bring us joy, strength, wonder, and growth. If that's more that you can do, then give generously to someone whose page is already created.
With only 5 days left before the Vertical Challenge, you might think that it's not worth creating a page of your own. Time is short, and you might only raise a few hundred dollars. Please consider two things:
1. What if those dollars you've raised become the scholarship for a student who'd never otherwise have the opportunity to explore a wilderness canyon - whose life trajectory becomes forever changed as a result.
2. What if you do nothing?
Only good can come of the most successful Vertical Challenge ever…which can only come from the efforts of many working together toward a common goal, for both the short-term and for our future. Our pledge is to ensure that every dollar raised will be used to create powerful change by empowering kids on rivers while connecting them to themselves, their peers, and to wild places. The work we do is more necessary today than it has ever been.
In the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Make a difference now.
Founder / Executive Director, GOALS – Get Outside And Learn Something