Nancy Verdin – Powerful Latina Voice for Conservation

dsc06552My background is like so many other immigrant stories in this country. My parents struggled to raise and educate four children while adapting to a new language and culture. As a child, I often found myself yearning for a peaceful place – where there didn’t have to be so much conflict and so many rules about how to stay safe.dsc06596

I found that peace in the San Gabriel Mountains, a wild and beautiful place that too many people in Los Angeles take for granted. It’s right there. The mountains rise up from local foothill communities like a beautiful painting. But they are real – and along with our beaches and deserts, we need to protect our forests and streams. Especially now, with a political movement underway to privatize and sell off public lands, it’s important to appreciate these places and defend them.

I was only eight years old when I discovered the magic of the mountains – walking down a forest trail and hearing only the trees and the sound of a stream flowing over the rocks. This was a place where my imagination could run free and my city problems seemed tiny. Now, when I lead a youth group into the mountains, I have that experience all over again through their eyes.

We need to claim our public lands and make sure they remain open to everyone. Any effort you make to protect the land will be like medicine for the mind, body and soul of generations to come.

Nancy Verdin is a Prevention Programs Coordinator at Day One in Pasadena, California. A graduate of UC Irvine, she earned her B.A. in Sociology. Nancy has also worked as a tutor, mentor, academic and behavioral coach with the Americorp organization, City Year. She is a proud graduate of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy, which teaches civic engagement and leadership skills to advocate for healthier local communities and to help build a new generation of stewards for our public lands. A native of Pasadena, CA, Nancy is still involved in her community and advocating for youth.


Pokémon GO does Latino Conservation Week

Growing up in a household where both parents brought in little income meant that instead of playing with toys I would need to rely on my imagination for entertainment. My neighbors would prove to be more than just childhood friends; they would become my outdoor explorer companions. We would spend hours playing in el monte, aka the woods, and pretend that the evil witch from the Power Rangers was out there chasing after us. But as the sun would set, we would migrate indoors and continue playing but now on the PlayStation. That Christmas, my parents surprised me with my own atomic clear purple Gameboy and a Pokémon Yellow game. Now I could do it all, be an outdoor explorer and own my own game console.unnamed (1)

Never would I have imagined two of my favorite childhood pass times crossing paths, but just last week Nintendo allowed me the opportunity to experience the hybrid of both.

Twenty years later, the games, the cartoons, and the memories continue to allow me to relive some of my favorite childhood years. I can only speculate, but the creators of Pokémon GO, may have created an answer to the epidemic that is plaguing the Latino communities—nature deficiency and obesity.

With Latinos being one of the fastest growing minorities in the U.S., we are seeing similar growth in obesity trends. Being that Latinos make up 17% of the total US population, more than 77% of Latino adults are overweight or obese, and 38.9% of Latino children are overweight or obese.1 Additionally, only 8% of Latinos engage in outdoor recreation. 2

Though obesity is a chronic problem caused by several external variables, two common causes that may result in obesity are physical inactivity and overeating.3  An additional challenge that may add to obesity is individuals not going outside because of lack of transportation to outdoor spaces and competition with indoor entertainment.

Initiatives like Latino Conservation Week aim to engage Latino communities in public lands, create opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, break down barriers, and become allies in defending our natural places.

So cue Pokémon GO: this app is integrating technology with nature. Within its first week the much anticipated Pokémon GO App has become a must have for die-hard fans and new Pokémon enthusiasts alike.

As the National Park Service celebrates its Centennial Anniversary, Director Jon Jarvis and fellow park rangers spoke about the opportunities this game has in reconnecting visitors to their public lands. 3 Ranger Ollig, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said:

IMG_6108“You can catch some Pokémon, you can learn about the sites and the memorials on the National Mall, and come back with a really meaningful experience,” he said. “As long as you’re safe and respectful of other visitors, come on out here and catch as many as you can.”4

The app even encourages people to put in work by walking a certain number of kilometers to hatch Pokémon eggs.  Aside from that, you can’t catch any Pokémon or gain control of a gym by staying stationary. This game motivates users to discover the outdoors spaces that are all over their own neighborhoods.

Pokemon GO’s unique gameplay even aligns with local Washington D.C. initiatives, such as DC Park PX’s short-term goal to:

“Prescribe NATURE to patients and families to encourage outside time in one of 350 green spaces/parks rated in Washington, DC.”

And their long-term goals to:

“Decrease impact of non-communicable chronic disease like obesity, asthma, and mental health disorders AND create the next generation of environmental stewards.”5

 With resources like DC Park PX park locator, DC residents could potentially access local green spaces or parks that are closer than they think.

This or future apps may have the potential of reducing a public health problem while also allowing us to reconnect to our public lands. The popularity of this app could potentially spark a new trend in active apps that take the user’s outdoors. What makes this experience so unique is that it allows users to experience the digital world while being active in public spaces.

While more research into gameplay and nature is still needed, I can only dream for avid game users or technology enthusiast to intergrade nature into their schedule—especially my Latino family. As I reflect on my youth, I come to realize what conservation means to me: living a simplistic life while enjoying and accessing our public lands. This game has provided an introduction to the outdoors to many individuals who otherwise may have not have connected. While the game does make you to visit outdoor spaces, I encourage you all to search for events on LatinoConservationWeek.com to explore and enjoy parks in a unique way. And as you continue to explore our parks for the rarest of Pokémon, please remember to LOOK UP from your screen and enjoy the outdoors.

 

#FindYourPark #EncuentraTuParque #PokemonGo #LatinoConservationWeek

Albert Arevalo is a Latino Outdoors Ambassador  in Washington D.C. and an Outreach Coordinator for GRID Alternatives. He loves to play tennis, hike, tweet on behalf of @PetTurtleOliver, and play kickball. 

For the third consecutive year, Latino Outdoors joins Hispanic Access Foundation and multiple other organizations across the country to celebrate Latino Conservation Week (LCW), July 16 to July 24.

References:

1http://stateofobesity.org/disparities/latinos/

2http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/causes

3https://www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice/videos/10153602428786389/

4https://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/national-park-rangers-will-help-you-hunt-pokemon?utm_term=.ceRnRq8K7#.sdyL5kJdm

5http://aapdc.org/chapter-initiatives/dc-park-rx/

 


Julian’s Adventure at Kirby Cove

By Juan Telles

LO California, Central Valley Regional Coordinator

 

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“This week, I had the pleasure of taking my five-year-old son camping for the first time. This post is dedicated to him.”

 

Julian (aka Little Tigre) is a wild child; his imagination takes him to places that usually involve anything minecraft, zombies, sharks and dinosaurs. His outdoor experience has been, mainly, in our urban parks, trails, and day-hikes in nature. His favorite activity is collecting rocks and sticks to take home. His passion for sticks and stones consequently lead our family and friends to find little treasures in the nooks of our homes and the compartments of our vehicles. He is curious, energetic, and always ready for adventure. Camping with Little Tigre has been something on my to-do list for quite some time. I was inspired by many things to make this happen for my little tiger. More specifically, camping with Chasqui Mom in early May at The Latino Outdoors Campout Conference, the newfound confidence in my outdoor skills, and a new book I bought at The Children & Nature Network Conference, “Vitamin N” by Richard Louv—motivated me to create this opportunity for Little Tigre. Thus, an inspired dad jumped at the opportunity to camp at Kirby Cove in The Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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We camped with Julian’s Tio Orlando and Tio Clay. These men helped me introduce a new experience to the young nature lover. Upon arrival, we all struggled to set up our tents. The confusion lied in the fact that the tents had been recently purchased, and we had not assembled them prior to our trip.  After an hour, our camp was set, and we explored the site. Venturing around the recreation area gave us three different types of chills: the temperature, wind, and mist gave us the cold chills (This was a world of difference from the Central Valley climate of 100 degree heat.), the beautiful sights gave us the awe-inspired chills, and we all felt the serenity of the space fill our bodies with a relaxation (insert hashtag) chill. I knew Julian was having fun; his main activity consisted of collecting sticks and yelling out, “BANANAS” at random. Now, if you were to ask me, I would not have an answer as to why. However, I could only guess that it meant that he was winning at life. He was bonding with his uncles and father in a very absurdly, amazing way.

 

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We bonded around the camp-fire: lounging, making fire-sticks, and cooking amazing food like the asada pictured.

 

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We bonded as nature explorers: on the trail, on the beach, and admiring the features of our surroundings.

 

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Strengthened the bond between a boy and his elders.

 

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The camp adventure fulfilled something in Lil Tigre. He accomplished feat after feat. He battled the raccoons that threatened to take his food and rip his tent. He found so many sticks and a treasure chest. He slept outside for two nights. When asked about his favorite part, Julian joyfully responds that his favorite activities were, “Eating and making fire.”

 

Our time at Kirby Cove was epic. I can only hope our next adventure is just as amazing.

For more from Juan Telles, visit him at @onetelles  IG – Snapchat – Twitter