Integrating the great outdoors


Black and hispanic Americans are chronically underrepresented in their use of the National Park System. Geographer Carolyn Finney is trying to change that.

Her new book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, examines the historical context that framed the wilderness as a place for white people and erased our knowledge of black Americans' participation in conservation, ecology, and forestry. You can read a great interview with her at The Boston Globe:

IDEAS: Who were some of the African-Americans environmentalists whose contributions surprised you most?

FINNEY: I interviewed so many people with amazing stories I had never heard of, stories I couldn’t believe the mainstream environmental movement hadn’t picked up on. Like John Francis, who spent 22 years walking across the US and Latin America to raise awareness about the environment. He did 17 years of that without talking! Or MaVynee Betsch, a black woman who gave away all her wealth, over $750,000, to environmental causes. Or Betty Reid Soskin, who at 92 is the oldest park ranger in the country, and who helped to get the Rosie the Riveter National Park on the books. What all of this says to me is the mainstream still has so much work to do to embrace and engage these stories, not just as black stories but as human stories that we can all relate to at a really basic level.

Thanks Christy Koerth!

Image: Some rights reserved by Varin.