Hiking Together for Our Planet

Our Clean Water Advocate, Katrina Phillips, participated in Climate Ride’s Climate Hike through Glacier National Park from August 3-7. Before the trip, she raised over $3,000 (with the help of many generous donors) to support Climate Ride and her chosen beneficiary organization, the Illinois Sierra Club. Feel free to email her at katrina.phillips@sierraclub.org if you want to learn more! 

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 As we ascended Apgar Mountain on the first day of our trip in Glacier National Park, I couldn’t help but don a ridiculous grin as I alternated between watching my footing on the path ahead and looking around me at the vast expanse of valleys and mountain ridges in the distance. I was finally experiencing the product of a seemingly long ago commitment, months of fundraising and a hectic weekend of scrambling to collect the right gear and pack my bags for the Montana wilderness.

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The immensity of the mountains and the landscape in view made me feel small in the way I think we’re supposed to feel when we consider our impact on this planet and the trace we will leave behind. We are one species among many, as I was reminded throughout the week by the sight of grizzly bears, moose, bighorn sheep and other wildlife that call the park home. We can’t afford to continue living unsustainably in the face of climate change and the challenges of limited resources, and our fellow species can’t survive the impacts of our wasteful actions.

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Glacier National Park provides us with a glimpse of the ways we are directly affecting what was once wild, and of our broader impacts on the planet and its climate. I saw a pile of discarded pistachio shells attract a band of chipmunks plump from food left behind by the many visitors to the park—projected to reach 3 million this year. At the top of the mountain, a melting glacier gave us an alarming view of how our collective actions are changing the climate and the landforms that depend on it. According to ongoing scientific studies, even the park’s largest glaciers could vanish by 2030. These visible impacts show that the “Leave No Trace” mantra cannot just apply to our behavior as we enjoy national parks, but must also guide the way we live our lives and treat our daily surroundings.

Climate Hike gave me the chance to see an incredible place seriously threatened by climate change, but it also gave me inspiration and appreciation for the work groups like Sierra Club are doing to bring environmental protection into the policies, media, political discourse and daily conversations that shape our country and the world. This work is critical because climate change isn’t just a phenomenon that’s melting glaciers in faraway places. It’s affecting the livelihoods of people who depend on predictable weather and a stable climate, the health of people in nations where good health care is scarce and disease is rampant, and the homes of people and animals where severe storms, flooding and heat waves are wreaking havoc. When I close my eyes and picture the beauty of Glacier National Park, and when I think about what’s at stake all over the world, I feel energized to continue this fight.

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Along with the incredible views, the beauty of the mountains and the mystique of its wild animals, my experience in the park gave me inspiration through the company I hiked over forty miles with and the conversations we shared. From age sixteen to sixty-five, my twenty-one fellow Climate Hikers each came with their own stories and reasons for being there. Whether it was to preserve the planet for their children, save the peace and serenity of nature for mental health patients they’ve treated, or to give back to the places that have served as refuges for their own sanity, the motivations each person brought to the experience gave me a renewed passion for the work we’re doing together. I know that every donor, volunteer, activist and staff member that I interact with on a daily basis has their own unique reasons for dedicating their time, money and energy to this effort. When we come together with the collection of our own stories and the stories we carry from others, our message becomes powerful and our actions form a movement.

This experience would not have been possible without the incredible generosity of the over fifty donors who contributed to my fundraising efforts and showed up to our fundraising events. I cannot say thank you enough and I am so excited to continue our work together for the planet.

If you’d like to make a donation, you can still do so here until December 1st. Thank you!

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