by Emma Jornlin
This Thursday July 1, members of SCA Seattle’s community crews will have the opportunity to present their views on conservation, connecting people to the outdoors, and environmental justice to important government officials at an event called the America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session.
Inspired by growing rates of obesity and what appears to be a national epidemic—or perhaps, addiction—to staying indoors, President Obama introduced in April a plan to get more Americans outdoors, titled the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.
Now in a gesture that reflects the principles he ran for office on, President Obama is looking to the community for ideas on how to get more people outside. On Thursday at Franklin High School, we are expecting the Director of the National Park Service, the Undersecretary of Interior for Wish and Wildlife and Parks, and the Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment to be present, listening to our ideas and acting as liaisons for the president.
We may not be speaking to the President himself, but it feels to me like he has offered us a golden ticket to his political chocolate factory, inviting us to help him invent the next policy that we and our friends may enjoy.
It’s not every day that a government official—federal, state, or municipal, goes directly to the youth to hear our ideas. In fact, many people my age (18) and under probably still think of the political system as a Wonka-type factory, sheltered from the public yet pumping out policies that we, the public, consume, no matter whether they are sour or sweet.
My hope for Thursday is that all this will change. First, by simply being present and listening to our ideas, these officials demonstrate the significance of our ideas. But if the CEQ actually uses the public’s ideas to influence future policy, then perhaps this can restore some of America’s faith in the political system as a whole.
If nothing else, I believe that Thursday is significant because it will bring community members together to discuss how disconnected people have become from nature. If all goes as plans, participants will go away with a greater awareness of how much time they spend indoors, as well as solutions for how we can change this distressing fact starting in our homes and branching out to our communities.