My friend Allison Cusick is an Antarctic oceanographer. She spends a lot of time in the lab and about three months a year aboard various ships in Antarctica. There, she uses citizen science to engage passengers in polar research in support of her work to understand and combat climate change. To keep things interesting, she sometimes wears a banana costume.
You probably haven’t heard of Allison, or the dozens of BIPOC and/or female explorers like her, because our social systems keep their work out of our field of vision.
To combat this visibility problem, Allison participated in a WikiBomb event for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) a few years ago. Their goal: Add more biographies about influential Antarctic female scientists to Wikipedia. By reading her posts on social media about those efforts, I became acutely aware of the Wikipedia bias problem.
Wikipedia has an estimated 1.5 million biographies, yet only 17 percent are about women. That’s not a remotely fair representation of the 50:50 female:male ratio that governs the human population. It’s even worse for – and speaks volumes to – the underrepresentation of BIPOC. The racial and gender biases on Wikipedia are so well documented, in fact, that you can find articles dedicated to these biases on Wikipedia itself.
Efforts like the one Allison participated in happen across the globe on a regular basis. This June, Strike4BlackLives stopped all academic work for the day to combat anti-Black bias. Their team of volunteers created 59 new articles and edited/improved 491 pages about Black academics and social justice. Their efforts mean that these Black academics will rise to visibility for today’s internet searchers and hopefully serve as role models and game changers to future generations.
I am not nearly as organized as Strike4BlackLives, and I will not pretend to be on their level, but I have been working to create more Wikipedia pages to highlight underrepresented voices. In two years, and with a small team of a helpers, we’ve managed to publish only three pages: Charlie Crenchaw, Claire Smallwood, and Mirna Vilereo. Wikipedia rejected four other submissions due to lack of “credible sources”* — a vague reason at best. I want help so we can do more.
You can follow Strike4BlackLives‘s excellent instructions to learn how to create a new page or edit existing ones. You’ll need a few hours to set up a profile and review Wikipedia trainings and best practices, then you can get on your way.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of 15 outdoor people who need Wikipedia pages, in alphabetical order. Let me know if you’ve joined this effort, and be sure to check out tips** at the bottom for ways to have more clout as a contributor. And, if you want to take this list for an official organized takeover, please do! We all need to do our part to change the narrative about who belongs in the outdoors.
Hopefully this can be just one step of many more to come.
Brooklyn is an mountain bike athlete and artist from the Pacific Northwest. Never seeing herself reflected in outdoor media, Bell created her own role model, Ruby J, to look up to. She’s featured in a film by Patagonia and on She Explores, Bikeworks and Teton Gravity Research.
Jenny is a self-identified fat, femme, queer writer and hiker on a trajectory of healing, self-care, and adventure in the outdoors. She’s also the founder of Unlikely Hikers. Note: We tried to set up a page for Jenny but were denied***. You may find be able to find a draft of her page if such things are saved.
Rachel is a pro skier featured in the film Pretty Faces.
Chillous is a personal trainer and group fitness coach with a weight-inclusive and Health At Every Size (HAES) approach. She has a passion for helping people find what joyful movement and strength means to them.
Gleich is a pro ski mountaineer, adventure athlete, writer, and activist for people and the planet. She’s taken a strong stance against misogyny and sexism in the outdoors. She’s featured in many places, including Outside, REI, right here, and Patagonia.
Pattie Gonia (Wyn Wiley)
Pattie Gonia is a backcountry queen bringing drag and advocacy into the outdoors. Created by photographer Wyn Wiley (he/him), Pattie (she/her) became known for exploring the backcountry in heels and now uses her platform to raise awareness for social justice. She’s featured in multiple places, including the Guardian. Note: Wyn also does not have a Wikipedia page.
Harris is a hiker, backpacker, and proud New Yorker. A collection of stories from his wilderness exploits is published in Way Out There. He’s featured by the WTA, Trail Posse, and The Mountaineers.
Errol “The Rocket” Jones
Errol “The Rocket” Jones is a 65-year-old ultrarunner dedicated to the sport and exploring the Bay Area Ridge Trail. He’s featured in What We See, the Runners Trip, Trail Runner mag, the Ultrarunner podcast, and “The Pleasure and the Pain” film by REI.
James Edward Mills
Mills is a freelance journalist who specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving, and practices of sustainable living. He’s the author of The Adventure Gap.
Miranda is a social entrepreneur, adventurer, transformation coach, motivational speaker, storyteller, consultant, and activist. She’s the founder of Altitude Seven and She Ventures.
Ortiz has gone from a beginner to a hiker to a climber to a mountaineer to a plus-size outdoor model in under five years.
Powell is the founder of Refuge Outdoor Festival (which also does not have a Wiki page), an outdoor festival geared toward people of color but welcome to all.
Scott is a climber, NOLS graduate, and bioengineer. She participated in Expedition Denali, featured in The Adventure Gap, and she’s featured by the NPCA, University of Washington, Trail Posse, and NOLS.
Tariq is the founder of @BrownPeopleCamping, a social media initiative that utilizes personal narratives and digital storytelling to promote greater diversity in our public lands and outdoors community.
Tsong is a twice-published author on yoga and brings a joy and creativity to her classes that make you feel welcome and excited to move. She’s featured in the Seattle Times and on OmPractice. Nicole also published two books: Yoga for Climbers and Yoga for Hikers.
Completed profiles now on Wikipedia
Tyrhee is a mountaineer and outdoor education advocate born and raised in S.E. Washington, D.C. Moore is a highly regarded outdoorsman whose climbs include Grand Teton, Mount Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, and the first all African-American climb of Denali featured in The Adventure Gap. He’s been featured by Diversify Outdoors, Outside online, the DC Environmental Film Festival, The Mountaineers, and Gear Junkie. A big thanks to Brad Hefta-Gaub for getting Tyrhee’s page live!
Nguyen is the first-generation Vietnamese-American cofounder of Climbers of Color, a nonprofit that provides mountaineering workshops for diverse outdoor leaders. A big thanks to Brad Hefta-Gaub for getting Don’s page live!
Nelson is one of the world’s best ski mountaineers and the first woman to have summited both Everest and Lhotse in 24 hours. She skied from Lhotse’s summit. A big thanks to Daryl Greaser for getting Hilaree’s page live!
Rosemary is a climber and graduate of NOLS and the GOLD (Girls Outdoor Leadership Development) program. She participated in Expedition Denali, featured in The Adventure Gap, and participated in the first all-Black U.S. expedition team to Kilimanjaro. A big thanks to Brad Hefta-Gaub for getting Rosemary’s page live!
*The way Wikipedia defines noteworthiness is a gatekeeping process, regardless of efforts to create pages. Someone could be celebrated and respected for what they or their org does, but if it doesn’t get coverage from traditional news institutions, it probably won’t pass the noteworthiness test. In the words of my teammate, “It’s kind of like their noteworthiness test only asks, ‘Are wealthier, whiter communities paying attention? If not, then it must not be worthy of a Wikipedia page.’ ”
** Below are tips from Brad Hefta-Gaub to get more clout as a contributor:
Create an account before doing any editing. Although you can edit pages anonymously on Wikipedia, having an account is a critical step for editors being seen as credible.
Create a user page for your account. This is considered customary for editors who want to seriously contribute to Wikipedia. You can have whatever you want on your user page, you can fill it out with your actual real identity or if you want to remain pseudo-anonymous you can craft a user page that keeps your real life identity secret. Your user page is found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:yourusernamehere. An example is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:ZappoMan
Start out with small, non-controversial edits to existing pages. For example, let’s say you have a favorite band and you notice that the Wikipedia page for that band is missing an album from the band’s discography. Adding the album to the discography is a small, non-controversial edit that will establish that you’re here with the goal of contributing to the accuracy of Wikipedia. Try to do several of these types of small edits over a couple days or weeks before diving into bigger projects like creating a new page for a person.
When you start working on a new page, first create a draft of that page in your “sandbox.” You can get to your sandbox at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:[your username]/sandbox – and just like any Wikipedia page, you can create and edit that sandbox to have your own content on it. You can create subpages within your sandbox. Using a sandbox to create your drafts provides a couple of benefits: first, you’ll have a copy of your work in case it is ever removed by an eager admin; second, because your sandbox is public, it will show that you are willing to transparently work on your ideas and content you plan to add. Transparency is a big deal with the Wikipedia community, so the more you are transparent in your work the more likely your content will be accepted.
Use existing templates in the content you create. Use the format and sections from existing similar articles so that your content “fits in” with the existing content on the topic. For example for biographies, grab an existing biography on Wikipedia and use the same sections and formatting. For biographies, have sections on “Biography” that includes info about when and where the person was born and grew up, what life events led them into the accomplishments that make them noteworthy. Include sections on “Notable Accomplishments”, “Accolades”, “Filmography” (films they were part of), “Bibliography” (books they authored or are a subject of), “Advocacy” for any groups or organizations they are actively participating in to advocate for causes they are part of.
***At the time of our attempt to create a page for Jenny Bruso, she had been featured in a number of publications, but generally in a roundup article. For example, she was listed with other social media influencers you should follow, and since Bruso didn’t have a specific article dedicated to her, the submission was declined.
This piece first appeared on Kristina’s blog, Occasionally Epic. She’ll be adding to this list of potential entries when she can — be sure to check her page, and this one, for updates.
Top photo: Joey Schusler/Patagonia