In the starkest of terms, we humans face unprecedented misery and very possibly extinction if we do not slow, halt, and eventually reverse global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Evidence is overwhelming, whether data or anecdotal. One need only look at the West Coast fire storms of 2020, but every day messengers are bringing bad news from every corner of the kingdom. In California, August was the hottest August ever, with temperatures nearly three degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 average. In Phoenix, August was the hottest month on record, period, with an average high of 110.7 degrees. There are two named tropical storms in the Atlantic right now, both the earliest named “P” and “R” storms. Want more? Me neither, but there’s plenty, whether it’s derechos in Iowa or plummeting wildlife populations.
If you are reading Adventure Journal, you probably already know this and, if you’re like me, you feel an acute connection to the landscape and tremendous sadness at what we’re doing to it. We need not be convinced; we already are. What we do need is solutions. We need actions that make a difference. We need bigger levers to pull and we need them now.
Adventure Journal has covered the environment and climate change since we launched in 2010, and over the years the amount of such coverage has waxed and waned. The mission of AJ is to explore what it means to live with adventure in your life, to share stories of the people, places, and things that are important to the outdoor adventure culture, and to make the world and ourselves better through the happiness and growth we find there. Stoke and joy are a huge part of the mix, and for the last few years, at least in our digital stories, I’ve taken the foot off the gas of our climate change coverage. AJ must be a place of positivity and hope, and the climate news is relentlessly bad.
The situation has been serious enough for long enough that I have considered closing Adventure Journal and devoting myself to fighting the climate emergency full time.
But that needs to change. The survival of recreational adventure is intrinsically tied to the health and viability of our environment. In the most superficial of terms, we’ve seen trails destroyed and massive areas closed to recreation because of fires. In AJ’s backyard, a long section of the Pacific Crest Trail was closed for many years because of fire. In the Santa Ana Mountains, some of our best bike trails have been closed for two years because of a fire. Right now, every national forest in California is closed because of fire danger.
Recreation, of course, means little compared to the survival of a way of living, or living itself. But recreation is the foundation of adventure as sport, and so it is the lens with which Adventure Journal views the world. Today, though, the larger issue of the climate emergency impact on everything has to be a part of the conversation. Buzzkill or not, we need to address the climate emergency with every tool and venue that we have: The evidence isn’t just clear that climate change is well under way, it’s also clear that we have less than a decade to stem the worst effects of global warming. There’s still time, but there isn’t much time, and it’s going to take a massive shift in how we act, both as individuals and as businesses.
The situation has been serious enough for long enough that I have considered closing Adventure Journal and devoting myself to fighting the climate emergency full time. After much consideration, I have concluded that would be foolish. Adventure Journal is the biggest lever I have; more than 400,000 of you read AJ online every month and I know that most of you have hearts bent toward doing the right things on climate change, you just need help seeing the path ahead, as we all do.
Two things are going to change at AJ. One is that our editorial and social media will increasingly feature the fight against global warming. You’re already seeing this in print: We’ve recently covered conservation photographers Cristina Mittermeier and Joel Sartore, and our fall issue has an interview with 350.org founder Bill McKibben. Our social channels will also feature more discussion of it, as will my personal social channels, @stevecasimiro on Twitter and Instagram. I’m sure we’d all rather see nothing but singletrack and cute avalanche rescue puppies, but these are the times we live in. It’s time to channel our fear into action, our rage into accountability. As Greta Thunberg says, “How dare you?”
Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn Adventure Journal into the Climate Emergency Journal; stoke and joy and inspiration will continue to be the foundation upon which we’re built. But decisions about what we cover and how we cover it will increasingly consider the impact on the environment and climate. For example, we are proactively looking for people and brands seeking solutions to entrenched problems, especially around the manufacturing of gear, and we are going to raise and ask ourselves hard questions about practices we’ve long taken for granted. Take overlanding: Has that industry done anything to address fossil fuel consumption? Should we as a media outlet continue to celebrate vehicles that are a key part of the problem? At bare minimum, we need to explore the questions, with an eye toward solutions.
The second shift is that Adventure Journal as a business is going to become a larger vehicle for a positive change. We already plant a tree for every product we sell and there’s a long list of other practices we currently follow, which we will be posting to our site shortly. But that’s not enough. Eva Karlsson, CEO of Houdini Sportswear, told us, “To be sustainable should be seen as the bare minimum for an organization’s social and environmental impact. Imagine a world where businesses set out to have a positive impact on the planet, and customers demanded it.” (Our interview with her will post next week.)
I agree with Eva one hundred percent. I think we should demand the highest standards of ourselves and we should demand them of the brands we support. Over the next few weeks, we will announce some changes that we’ve made to our business practices—practices we’ve already made, not that we intend to make—and we’ll open the conversation to how we as a business can have an even greater positive impact.
The first development that I can tell is that beginning today, Adventure Journal is partnering with Protect Our Winters to help you make a plan to vote. Unlike in past elections, the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the 2020 election make it imperative that we are more informed on our states’ policies on absentee ballots, deadlines, polling places, and more. Between today and the election, when you come to any Adventure Journal page, you will see a pop-up widget. Enter your email and POW will send you the information you need to vote the planet and get this world back on track.
Admittedly, helping people vote is one small step, and we will be doing more with our editorial to address the issues we see, but right now nothing counts as much as your ballot in this election. Remember, even if you’re super-ultra woke and ready to go, we’re sure you know people who aren’t. For every person you encourage and inspire to cast a ballot, you’ve doubled your vote—legally, hahaha.
We can do this, right? We will.
Editor and Founder
PS: Adventure Journal is reader supported, primarily through our print subscriptions. We’re only in a handful of shops, which means that most subscribers find us right here, with me asking. If you love adventure, if you like Adventure Journal online, I guarantee you will love AJ in print, where our stories are always exclusive to print. If you don’t, we’ll give you your money back and I’ll even get on the phone with you to learn how we can make it better, if you want.
Photo by Guy Bowden