Pretty sure that everyone is about done with this Pandemic. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be done with us. No travel, gym time (the YMCA is open in Bellingham, but why would you risk it?), no pick-up basketball and little interaction with others has got me feeling blue. And living here in the Pacific Northwest, and especially in Whatcom County, I have easy access and abundant opportunity to enjoy close to home pubic lands, open spaces and parks. I am really empathetic to those who can't avail themselves of the outdoors and the decrease in anxiety that it brings, or how it helps with separation from friends and family. I hope my website and blog will bring a little sunshine to you through wildlife and scenic landscape images, and help all of us weather the time before we can be together again.
Pre-pandemic. 2015 Pacuare River trip. Photo by Costa Rico Rios.
When I do get out, living out of my truck and being up at first light and at sunset helps me social distance and stay away from crowds. But it takes planning and I am well aware of how many more people are out there during this current situation (I read recently that Utah's Wasatch Range saw a 400% increase in use last summer). With numbers like those, there is certainly going to be resource damage -- which is not OK. We can help by understanding that everyone is seeking the same gifts from nature: health, physical and mental sustenance (sanity), reflection and a connection with each other and with the land we live on. Those who already have a love of land and understand the ethics of sustainability need to set the bar and lead the way.
When things loosen up, those crowds won't go away. To deal with that, photographers, bikers, hikers, anglers, hunters and bird watchers need to think differently about nature, the outdoors, and why others are wanting what nature has provided to us. When I first started in conservation back in the early 90's, it was already understood that we needed more people in the outdoors and more supporters of nature and the environment. It was understood that to do this right would require a massive amount of introspection, education, patience, and resources. That time is now, this is a teaching moment, and we all need to step up!
Evening along the Salish Sea. Whatcom County, WA.
We can still practice patience and lead by example. Mask up, distance, don't travel, disinfect, and pick up after your dog. Understand that everyone out there is looking to connect with something bigger than ourselves. And work to increase staffing and funding for federal, state and local natural resource agencies. Decades of lay-offs, buy-outs and budget cuts had decimated resource agencies long before Covid. If they couldn't adequately manage public access, maintenance and outreach then, they certainly won't be successful with a ton more people. Nature is important on so many levels and maintaining, protecting and managing the outdoors should be a funding priority. And, if you can, support your favorite environmental, social justice, arts or other non-profit. Whenever we get back to the new-normal, we will want them around to feed and improve our standard of living.
Finally, if you have the expertise and can't handle the crowds, you may just need to go higher and/or deeper. Just remember to lead by example, and stay cautious and safe. Don't overload or tax our doctors, nurses and medical services further. They already have too much to do!