On June 5th of 2020, lightning strikes in the Pusch Ridge region of the Catalina Mountains. This ignited what many Tucsonians know as the Big Horn Fire. The Bighorn Fire burned until July 23rd destroying 119,978 acres and raged through pristine locations such as Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon.
I remember getting phone calls warning my family and my community that we may have to evacuate. As my mom and I scrambled around the house packing some of our belongings, I was frightened at the aspect that our house could be burned. I ran out to my backyard with binoculars looking up at the fire and, right before my eyes, I saw trees being snapped and disintegrated by 15 foot high flames. What was left was a blackened sky with black burned ash marks all over the mountain.
Devastated, I reminisced on the thrill I felt of hiking the trails and summiting the peaks with my closest friends and fellow scouts. These mountain ranges are home to trails and campsites where us scouts have gained many lifelong memories. I remember the first summer camp I attended was Camp Lawton up at Mt. Lemmon and this fire jeopardized this site for the future. This trip was the first instance where I truly began to respect the beauty of nature which only grew throughout middle and highschool. Being out in nature puts me at peace from the busy city as I recall my favorite memories I made in the outdoors. When I took my Eagle Scout Oath, I was asked to “Give back to scouting more than it has given to me.” As a result, I have always tried to use my scouting experience to advocate for the preservation of nature so I call upon you all that you all do too.
Scouting has helped me understand better now why people ignore environmental problems. The actual experience of being in nature is so incredibly challenging that it makes sense why people dispel notions of natural distress. As a result, it’s not enough to make people either aware of or exposed to nature. You have to make people comfortable in this extremely uncomfortable environment so that they feel they have the capacity to respond to it. I have learned that I’m capable of tolerating the discomfort of nature, and therefore I want to help others invest and protect it.
The pictures above, taken by me, are of the “Big Horn Fire” from my house.
As scouts we are always taught to “Be prepared” and to “Respect Nature.” Now more than ever, we must stick to these mottos and spread awareness to protect our beloved campsites and ultimately nature itself. No matter what political belief you may adhere with, it is important for us to advocate for climate justice. Climate change is not a political issue, rather, an existential crisis that has serious implications on our generation and the future. If nothing is done and industrial anthropogenic activities continue to take a detrimental toll on nature, troop and scouting events will cease to exist because of the lack of feasible natural grounds. Thus, it is crucial that we all come together to protect our environment.
Although many may argue that climate change is a “distant problem,” if we pay close attention to the trails we hike, the lakes we row, and the places we camp at, there are key details that represent the effects of climate change. For instance, the fires in Australia burned a large amount of the forest that scouts went to. Additionally, scouts in the Maldives are dealing with the fear that their island could drown due to rising sea levels. Some other instances you may have noticed include the heat taking a toll on hikes and campouts, campfires no longer permitted due to hazards, and campsites are even being eroded away. As can be seen, the entirety of the scouting organization is at risk due to climate change. If nothing is done, these problems will only worsen. Future scouts…you may not be able to experience the thrill of canoeing lakes, summiting mountains, or even simply making s’mores in the middle of the wild. We must unify and make our voices heard or else scouting will no longer exist.
The pictures above, taken by me, are from a hiking trail on Mt Graham where a fire occurred years ago displaying that the environment is still recovering (thus the abundance of naked trees). This fire caused the red squirrel population to decline and become endangered on this mountain.
Call to the Wild
From our standpoint as scouts, we can have an extremely powerful voice on this issue. It is crucial that we give back to nature more than it has given to us. Nature has provided the scouting community with lifelong memories that we will carry on forever. I ask you all to join the fight for climate justice in preserving wildlife, campsites, trails, lakes and etc for future scouting generations to enjoy. If we can raise our voices to combat this issue, we can spark other troops and the surrounding councils to join us. Some ways you can get involved include:
- Regular Trail Maintenance and cleanups: This will help preserve nature for future activities even for the public
- Influencing your community to become more green: this can include shorter showers, composting, solar etc.
- Spreading awareness to surrounding troops and to the councils: In your next board of review, talk about how you and your troop have made an impact in limiting the anthropogenic effects of climate change. Visit other troops and spread awareness about this topic of concern.
- Inspire your community to vote and sign petitions that advocate for climate justice. Some ways to do this include going door to door, and attending community events and talking about the issue: This can help scouts around the world such as those in Australia, Maldives, and etc.
This Changes Everything. Directed by Avi Klein, Klein Lewis Productions, 2015.