Just for kicks, I googled fear of outside this morning. My search turned up 187 million results. For comparison's sake, I then googled fear of death and fear of the unknown, fears I thought were fairly common. To my surprise, there were only 84.7 and 73.5 million hits, respectively, and when combined, still fewer results than my first search. While the findings of my quick internet inquiry will probably never hit the annals of any reputable science journal, there is a growing body of evidence that America is becoming increasingly sedentary and spending a lot of time indoors (you can find the facts on the Children & Nature Network's site).
June is Great Outdoors Month, and there is no better time to kick Nature-Deficit Disorder to the curb. So, let me share ten ways to get outside and celebrate the outdoors this month.
1. Get Out-ing. Did you know that the Sierra Club, America's largest grassroots conservation organization, offers outings throughout the country (and the world)? Sierra Club's 7,500+ trained volunteers are leading outdoor activities this June (and all year round) for beginners and the most experienced hikers. Find your local Sierra Club chapter or group and join an outing that matches your interests. Being a newly trained and certified Sierra Club outings leader myself, I can personally vouch for the program.
2. On a rainy day, read President Barack Obama's Great Outdoors Month Proclamation for some inspiration. Here's an excerpt: "This month, as we enjoy the natural splendor of our Nation, let us stay true to a uniquely American idea -- that each of us has an equal stake in the land around us, and an equal responsibility to protect it. Together, let us ensure our children and grandchildren will be able to look upon our lands with the same sense of wonder as all the generations that came before."
3. Hit the trail with the American Hiking Society. June 7th is National Trails Day®, a time to explore and enjoy America's trail system. Enjoy a stroll along a city trail or take on a section of the Appalachian Trail. There is no trail too big or small that isn't worth exploring.
4. Celebrate African Americans in National Parks Day to honor the rich history and contributions African Americans have made to our National Park System. This year,Bay Area residents are joining Outdoor Afro and the National Park Service to pay homage to the famed Buffalo Soldiers by retracing their historic journey from the Presidio of San Francisco to Yosemite National Park. In 1903, units of the 9th United States Cavalry made the 280-mile trek over thirteen days from the Presidio to Yosemite. Buffalo Soldiers spent the summer in the park protecting it against poaching and grazing and blazing trails still used today.
5. June 14th is National Get Outdoors Day. Grab your family or a friend - try to find someone who doesn't spend a whole lot of time outdoors - and show him or her why the outdoors is so special to you. Start simple at a nearby park close-to-home or go visit a state or national park, forest or refuge and celebrate America's public lands.
6. Better yet, take your dad, and make it a weekend. June 15th is Father's Day and there is no better way to celebrate then a weekend outdoors. Skip the wrapping paper and give your dad a gift that he really wants - quality time with you!
7. Pack a lunch and grab your family and friends for a picnic on June 18th for International Picnic Day. Getting outdoors doesn't have to mean climbing Mount Everest. Spending time outdoors can be as simple as grabbing a blanket and some grub and getting to your local neighborhood park for a picnic.
8. During Great Outdoors America Week, June 23-26th, join Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and many other groups in Washington, DC, to let your leaders know how much you care about America's Great Outdoors. Great Outdoors America Week raises awareness around outdoors issues by bringing together hundreds of diverse organizations and activists to meet with lawmakers and administrators to advocate for our outdoor way-of-life. Can't make it to Washington? Consider meeting with your local decision-makers, or sending a letter to your representatives, to let them know how much you value our public lands.
9. Close out the month by participating in the Great American Backyard Campout(hosted by the National Wildlife Federation) where thousands of people across the nation will spend the night of June 28th outdoors, in a tent or sleeping under the stars. And remember, America's public lands belong to all of us, so even if you don't have a backyard right outside your door (and many of us don't), you can camp in a park near you!
10. Oh, and plan ahead - because opportunities to get outdoors don't stop at the end of June. Parks and Recreation Month AKA July is right around the corner.
This is just a list to get you started. Have other ideas to encourage people to get outdoors? Please share them in the comments!
--by Jackie Ostfeld, Nearby Nature Director, Our Wild America Campaign, Sierra Club