Leading With Empathy
May 21, 2020
How one woman is creating a new platform to raise the collective voices for outdoor good.
By India Alfonso | @indiaalfonso
How do you get dozens of people actively marching in a climate strike past the security guards at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver? If you’re Katie Boué, the founder of the Outdoor Advocacy Project, you ask nicely and you compromise.
While this isn’t an approach that everyone agrees with, nor would it work for everyone, Boué has found success with her own style that reflects her values. She doesn’t agree with cancel culture, and despite her tens of thousands of Instagram followers, she recognizes that social media isn’t the end all be all of change-making.
“We’ve forgotten how to think, to be thoughtful,” she said. “I want people to activate their critical thinking skills, to be smarter about our tactics and tools.”
She began cultivating these beliefs when she worked at the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). It was through OIA that she learned about the administrative side of public lands, and while she loved posting to the ‘gram, she knew it wasn’t what she was meant to be doing. Boué was serving the corporate side of the industry but her passions were with the communities, people, and wild places themselves. During this time she also noticed a need within the outdoor community—a need for unification.
Boué wholeheartedly believes that consumers are able to enact change, so when she left OIA, she set out to create something that would speak directly to individuals, rather than corporations and government officials. She wanted to build a one-stop-shop for everything advocacy-related, with a focus on climate change, so that people had the resources they needed to become champions for the outdoors. “We have all these things we want to see changed in the industry and in our community, and we can make it happen without waiting on companies to step up. We are the voters, we have the power, and we should have a lot of voice,” she said.
Her calling has manifested itself as the Outdoor Advocacy Project. The OAP is a place where people can learn about the solutions to environmental issues; it’s a digital community where outdoor advocacy isn’t reserved for policymakers, but rather lies in the hands of the people. Hopefully, as a result of being educated and inspired, people will feel empowered to contribute to the larger political narrative by advocating and voting for public lands.
As someone who has made it her life’s work to advocate for public lands, Boué is aware that the resources to get involved already exist on the Internet—the problem for the average individual is knowing where to find them. By placing all of the tools for activism in one easy to access spot, she wants to eliminate excuses and encourage people to take action, which, at the end of the day, is her main goal.
Whether it’s information regarding proper leave no trace principles, what advocacy events or volunteer opportunities are going on in your community (think #climatestrike), how to contact local and federal representatives, or what permits are needed for your next camping trip, the OAP is the go-to resource for everything you need to know to get outside responsibly. It’s also a place to convene with people who may or may not agree on every single point of an issue, but who are committed to a collective approach to enact real change in the outdoor industry.
“We can pat ourselves on the back with symbolic gestures but we need to hold the [outdoor] industry accountable and capable,” she said.
Boué doesn’t just want some people to take action, however. She wants everyone to. With every new person who hits the trail, that’s one “new voice to advocate for protecting the outdoors and strengthening our community.” The lack of diversity within the outdoor industry is in part what she wants to address with the project, so she’s committed to making intersectionality a priority and the backbone of this project. “Building an intersectional movement within the outdoor community is about amplifying, representing, and compensating voices of different genders, races, cultures, geographic perspectives, political identities,” she said. By creating a digital space where a variety of perspectives can exist together as valid truths she’ll help make the outdoors more inclusive.
“Everyone who is involved with it should feel a sense of ownership with this, and feel like this is their project too,” Boué states. People from all over are volunteering their time, their eagerness, and their expertise, all for the sake of making the outdoor community better And by doing so, they already have.
If you’re interested in joining the conversation, you can visit www.OutdoorAdvocacy.com to learn more or follow @outdooradvocacy on Instagram.