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#39669 - 08/14/14 11:11 AM Lack of diversity in Outdoors
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114621/national-parks-popular-white-people-not-minorities-why

I found this article thought-provoking, even disturbing.

"Say you're a black teenager in Washington, D.C., or a Hispanic teenager in Denver. Statistically, there's a good chance you have never been to Shenandoah National Park or Rocky Mountain National Park, respectively, because your parents had neither the means nor the interest.

Then you grow up, get a good job, and enter a higher income bracket.

Why on Earth would you use your hard-earned vacation time to spend a week eating freeze-dried food in the woods-rather than, say, reclining at a seaside hotel on Miami Beach, frozen margarita in hand?


Edited by Steve C (08/14/14 11:15 AM)
Edit Reason: fixed curly quotes, etc

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#39675 - 08/14/14 01:21 PM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1128
Loc: NorCal
The percentages in the article need to be compared to actual demographic percentages. To say that only 7% are Asian is misleading when Asians make up about 5% of the population. Same with the economic groups, "outdoors people" are not that far off the normal distribution curve.

Despite this criticism of the article, I agree with the conclusion based on my perceptions. My wife and I have discussed this many times on the trail. We can't quite figure out why this is the case, but we do sense a lack of diversity on the trail. I think its mostly an economic issue.

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#39694 - 08/15/14 08:13 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Originally Posted By: Ken


Ditto. This subject has bothered me for years. Whether you're in the Sierra, on the AT, or standing at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, the people around you are overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, white (and if you're at one of the major national parks, the chances are you're hearing other languages spoken around you as often as English, which I think speaks to a broader problem of appreciation for the natural wonders by Americans in general).

For years I've attempted to interest non-white friends and colleagues in hiking, backpacking and climbing, with very little success. The reasons vary, but the most common honest answer I hear from members of minority groups is that they just have no interest in being isolated in a wilderness that they're quite conscious of being populated by almost only whites. Is this concern justified in 2014? Probably not in most places, but perception is reality. And this is a perception that is distressingly difficult to shake.

Sure, socio-economics plays a part, as does the generational legacy of spending time in The Great Outdoors, which is most often viewed as a "white family thing." I don't necessarily agree, however, that there is just no interest by minorities in the outdoors or hiking as a recreational activity. My local mountain training ground is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, about fifteen minutes from my home. I've hiked the mountain trails there weekly for a number of years, and I see many blacks and Hispanics - the two groups mentioned most often in articles on this subject as disinterested in the outdoors - on the rugged, gnarly, steep trails in this park. Like me, many are there for a workout, but they also seem to be enjoying this protected slice of the wilderness set smack in the middle of a major metro area of six million. After all, they could get a very similar workout walking up the smooth, paved road to Kennesaw's summit, which many do. It's not at all unusual to see just as many minorities as whites huffing up the mountain trails in this park, quite often as families with their kids. Visit one of the metro area climbing gyms and, though less pronounced, there is a noticeable mix of people on the walls - particularly kids and young adults.

And that seems to be the key - location and proximity to what is perceived to be safe or comfortable. Come off a three-mile trail to the KMNBP Visitor Center and you're right back in the ATL, with all its immense diversity. Drive north a couple of hours however, to the more isolated - and perceptually much whiter - Blue Ridge mountains, and the number of visible minorities on any trail (or lake, or park, or festival) plummets drastically.

It's a complex dilemma with several crux issues, not the least of which are cultural dissonance and racial distrust, and any ground gained will likely be slow. A site mentioned prominently in one of the linked articles - Stuff White People Like - is both hilarious and telling. It's definitely worth reviewing.

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#39695 - 08/15/14 08:29 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1251
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Thought provoking? How? Some writer throw around racial innuendos and qualifies as thought provoking...OIA and Boulder, CO or is it our government subsidizing trips for under represented minorities that might not be under represented.

My parent had the wherewithal, whatever that means, but no desire to take me to a state park or national forest. When I started up in 1996, I had a $10 Costco pack and a bunch stuff I had around the house. Then, there were the rentals from tent to snowshoes in the beginning. There really is not a high cost of entry to hiking...if you don't believe me just hike up any of the Angeles Front Country trails on any weekend.

I can't figure out what is so disturbing. It can't be black participation because it is within the margin of error. 12.61% in the population vs. 11%, yet the writer does not seemed to have looked at his own graphic, when he complains about black teenagers. Hispanics in Denver...hmmm...if they are anything like SoCal, they are representative to their numbers in the population...and if you were to include those just going the edges of the forest to picnic and recreate, I would say over represented.

A flawed article at best.

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#39698 - 08/15/14 09:56 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
Brent N Offline


Registered: 01/20/11
Posts: 278
Loc: Orange County, CA
I have been thinking about this issue for years too and don't really have a handle on why. In my city, we are 52% Caucasian, 20% Asian, 2% Black/African-American and most of the rest of the population is Hispanic. When camping, I see primarily Caucasians and Hispanics, but almost no other subgroup. Camping is a poor man's vacation so it ought to bring out lower socioeconomic groups. When hiking, however, I see primarily Caucasians unless I'm hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains, and in particular, Mt. Baldy, where the mix is probably 60 Caucasian, 35% Asian (a large percentage of which greet me with heavily accented English) and maybe 5% Hispanic. When I go climbing, the population is nearly 100% Caucasian.

I haven't figured out why the Hispanics who I see camping, don't hike and why the Asians I see hiking don't camp.

I'm no demographer, so these statistics are surely flawed, but they seem to represent my own observations.

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#39699 - 08/15/14 10:30 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Brent N]
Abhijit Offline


Registered: 03/19/14
Posts: 27
Loc: Chattanooga, TN
Brent N,
I'll tell you my reasoning behind lack of Asians while camping. This is purely based on my thought process and have no statistical base.
Facts - I'm from India. I do not like to camp. I like to hike and see the places/nature.

Some mentioned to me that they go camping to enjoy the natural environment and go away from day-to-day city/town atmosphere. Go away from things we take for granted and just enjoy the nature.
In my hometown, there's a thing call load shedding - where we don't have electricity in high demand months (summertime) from 7am to 3pm daily. We do not have AC. We get drinking water once a day (or 3 times a week during summer months) so we have to store it and be frugal about it.

Being away from daily comforts argument just doesn't make any sense from above examples for a lot of people. Going camping we are not going to achieve anything new.

Most of the Indian subcontinent does not have any snow and I feel cold if the temperature goes below 50 degrees (even though I'm here for a few years now, it's just one of those mind things). So camping and staying in a tent in freezing cold (potentially) is pure torture for me. Why go to all this trouble when I can sleep in my bed and enjoy the comfortable sleep. Lot of my acquaintances share similar thought process - right, wrong, indifferent. I can take critique on this attitude of mine and won't be offended.
I was on Mt Whitney trail doing day hiking last month. When I mentioned this to my friends and family in India, they were surprised and asked me why did I go through so much trouble.

Hope it sheds some light on thoughts.

Abhijit

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#39700 - 08/15/14 10:33 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: wbtravis]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
or is it our government subsidizing trips minorities?

===========================

Here is an interesting thought. In California, whites are no longer the majority, simply the largest minority.

One might reasonably (or not) ask: Is it right for the Gov't to subsidize, through taxpayer payments to parks, for an activity that is mainly beneficial to only one minority group?

In the talks I give on Whitney each year at A16, which consists of several hundred people, a black is rare.

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#39701 - 08/15/14 10:39 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Bulldog34]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
Bulldog,

I have often wondered about the effect of the military upon people learning about hiking/backpacking. The military has had significant numbers of minorities, and I wonder if locals that have higher settlements of x-military would have more minorities in the outdoors.

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#39702 - 08/15/14 11:04 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 825
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
It might be more revealing if the white population alone was polled regarding their desire, or lack of, to engage in an outdoor activity like hiking or skiing.

Poor white people, like my parents when they moved to California, might not be inclined to backpack or ski, because they might not have the financial resources or the energy required after long days of work.

Another factor might be city versus country living demographics. Most non-white ethnic groups might tend to live in city environments - it is where they possibly feel more comfortable culturally.

In our little mountain town, the teens seem to be less inclined to backpack, but can be avid skiers. Most of the locals that I see every week hiking in our local mountains are from older age groups.

I think the situation is a lot more complex than we think, and ought never judge someone by their participation in, or lack of interest in, outdoor recreation.





Edited by Bob West (08/15/14 11:05 AM)

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#39711 - 08/15/14 12:48 PM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Ken and Bob, I believe the specifics of when and why a person is truly exposed to the wilderness and wilderness activities is almost as important as any cultural or ethnic dynamic. Former military experience in the woods or mountains could very likely engender a lifelong passion for it (or perhaps extreme aversion in some cases, depending on your sergeant). Certainly, being regularly exposed to it as kids should build a comfort level and familiarity, if not an immediate passion. I think that for a lot of us, we come to it later in life after other youthful pursuits have either lost their shine or become impractical.

For me, I grew up a city boy in a family that had no inclination to the outdoors. I slept in a tent once before the age of 33, and that was a memorably miserable Boy Scout trip at about age 11. I had zero interest in the outdoors. I was a sprinter in high school and college, then took up weight-training, softball, and Tai Kwon-do in my mid-late twenties. In my early thirties I began to have recurring tendinitis in both shoulders. Despite several cortisone-steroid injections, it persisted and I had to stop my favorite activities. That, and the injections were no fun: "Hold on, doc - it hurts here in the front of my shoulder. Why the hell are you sneaking around behind me with that footlong needle? And why does this aide have a deathgrip on me?"

Coincidentally, about that time, I visited Palm Springs to attend a conference and made a daytrip to Joshua Tree NP. This was my first time in the real desert and I was sold immediately. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life, Hawaii included - until I got into the Rockies, Sierra and Cascades. I put two and two together and realized I could get back to being enjoyably active, even with the tendinitis issues, by hiking, backpacking and mountain biking in this kind of environment. One thing led to another and trail/mountain activities have pretty much been my primary recreation for twenty years now.

I suspect my story is not unusual. In my mind, it's about exposure to places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Mt Rainier. I think people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or cultural background, feel a tug when presented with such natural beauty. The Tibetan and Nepalese people are some of the poorest and most persecuted on earth, yet they regard the Himalaya as blessed and divine. And, as I mentioned, one thing can lead to another. However, if you're never exposed to these wonderful places . . .

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#39717 - 08/15/14 03:55 PM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Bulldog34]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1004
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
A lot of over- thinking here, IMHO.

The fact is, we different demographic groups ARE by definition, diverse already. Try to explain how some like to, say, go bowling.

It is not just lack of money or opportunity blamed on some other group. That is often a tiresome excuse. Sometimes it is what it is. We are not all the same, not even the proverbial pink on the inside.

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#39739 - 08/17/14 09:17 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Harvey Lankford]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1251
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Thank you, Harvey.

I do not get upset the NBA is mostly black and the NHL is mostly white. There is not a bar too entry in either league, just as there is not a bar to entry into our wilderness areas.

The GPS said I walked almost 14 miles in designated wilderness yesterday after reading and commenting on this thread. If you asked me the racial make up of who I saw yesterday I could not tell you with any accuracy. Most likely because I do not see race as the author of this article. I have come believe in Viktor Frankl's definition of race...the are only two races, the decent and indecent.

All this article is a blueprint of how to Balkinize America.

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#39740 - 08/17/14 09:44 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1251
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Ken,

It is the article you post a link to, didn't you read it? Try the first paragraph after first graphic for the claim to subsidy.

Is the government baring minorities from the wilderness areas or are they choosing not to go? I believe it is the latter. If I'm not mistaken, those of choosing to use the forests and parks have had to pony up extra funds to use them...entrance and permit fee and late not lamented Adventure Pass. I believe, we the using public, should pay more...our tax supported university demand its students pay more.

The talks you give are a micro example of Westside of Los Angeles, the Valley and San Diego, not the country as a whole. The article claims 11% of Blacks participate in outdoor activities and the population of blacks in this country is 12.6%. As I pointed out their participate is within the margin of error.

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#39742 - 08/17/14 12:34 PM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: wbtravis]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
"The talks you give are a micro example of Westside of Los Angeles, the Valley and San Diego, not the country as a whole."

Pardon me, but your posts are contained, from beginning to end, with stories of what you see, what you experience, what you think, what has happened to you.

Presumably you think it is alright to post about your experiences. But you object when others post about their experiences?

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#39771 - 08/18/14 07:47 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Ken]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1251
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
I know this is difficult, Ken, but could you provide specific example in both posts?

BTW, you call this, "even disturbing". Why?


Edited by wbtravis (08/18/14 07:54 AM)

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#39831 - 08/20/14 11:02 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Abhijit]
Brent N Offline


Registered: 01/20/11
Posts: 278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Abhijit, thanks for weighing in with your personal experiences. My wife wonders why I do any of this stuff too when there are perfectly good hotel rooms and lounge chairs from which to gaze at the mountains.

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#39833 - 08/20/14 11:42 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Abhijit]
Krishna Offline


Registered: 04/15/11
Posts: 101
Loc: Woodridge, IL, USA
Hi Abhijit!
I am from South India, brought up in a village with our house right on the banks of the river Godavari. Right from early childhood, I loved swimming in that bottomless wide river, enjoyed getting lost in the wild growths of the other banks. When I started my career teaching at the Univ in a coastal town, I was overjoyed to see the mountains (Eastern ghats) and during the course of next few years, I climbed every visible peak in the surrounding areas with some guava fruit and oranges in a small sack and water in a heavy duty military canteen. We did not have A/C in our house or in the labs either. So what, it did not deter me from my wanderings! When I came to Oahu for my grad studies (on FB grant), I jumped at the first opportunity to join a hiking club and never looked back! The beauty of the stark granite mountains, the unblinking stars of a dark night, the fantastic sun rises in places like grand canyon, what else can one ask?
So its nothing to do with where you were born or what your race is or how many made fun of your hobby, the bottom line: enjoy doing what you do.
My 2c!

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#39848 - 08/21/14 06:34 AM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Abhijit Offline


Registered: 03/19/14
Posts: 27
Loc: Chattanooga, TN
Yes, you are right Krishna. I also agree with Harvey's post here that we are just different. Whatever floats your boat kind of thing.
Abhijit

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#39857 - 08/21/14 04:09 PM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: Brent N]
RickG Offline


Registered: 05/23/14
Posts: 13
Loc: Moorpark, CA
Interesting observations Brent.

I'll chime in from a cultural perspective. Having grown up in Mexico until 16 years old, I can tell you that long hiking was never a big pastime. If you were going to go any distance without a vehicle, it was going to be on horse. Car camping however, is widely done, loved especially in beach areas.

It got me to think a bit, and I think it is mostly that in hispanic cultures, meals are not just sustenance, they are a critical component of social interaction. And since hiking limits the ability to really have a feast, car camping is "really roughing" it! wink

I spent most summers as a kid at my dad's ranch for 3 months. On mostly short hikes and hunts. I regret not having done some deep hiking and camping because some of the country down in Baja is beautiful. It just wasn't thought of as an activity. Why do that when you could go out early in the morning, shot some quail and the have a great carne asada in the afternoon?




Originally Posted By: Brent N
I have been thinking about this issue for years too and don't really have a handle on why. In my city, we are 52% Caucasian, 20% Asian, 2% Black/African-American and most of the rest of the population is Hispanic. When camping, I see primarily Caucasians and Hispanics, but almost no other subgroup. Camping is a poor man's vacation so it ought to bring out lower socioeconomic groups. When hiking, however, I see primarily Caucasians unless I'm hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains, and in particular, Mt. Baldy, where the mix is probably 60 Caucasian, 35% Asian (a large percentage of which greet me with heavily accented English) and maybe 5% Hispanic. When I go climbing, the population is nearly 100% Caucasian.

I haven't figured out why the Hispanics who I see camping, don't hike and why the Asians I see hiking don't camp.

I'm no demographer, so these statistics are surely flawed, but they seem to represent my own observations.

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#39865 - 08/21/14 06:21 PM Re: Lack of diversity in Outdoors [Re: RickG]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1553
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
RickG: I had some of my greatest camping AND social feasts in Baja. Back in college, we used to take my jeep to Bahia San Quinti'n (in the days when the pavement ended about 3 blocks south of Hussong's Cantina) where the first stop was always at the casa of farmer and fisherman Leo Moreno, on a bluff just north of the Bahia. Leo would always have big lobsters, crabs, fresh corn, whatever the land and sea offered up that day, and a choice camping spot for us overlooking a blowhole and the entire Pacific. He would always insist that we had more food and firewood and company and music and that we paid way too little money for it. Leo always just seemed happy to have someone there enjoying his beautiful spot on the bluff and the bounty of his land and ocean. Taught me a lot about "camping". And you are so right: It didn't feel like an "activity"; it just felt like living.
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