My name is Olivia Pond. I am an Iowan who was fortunate enough to grow up at Sugar Bottom Campground and on the Coralville Reservoir. I name these 2 locations in particular because they are where nearly all of my childhood memories lie. I can still recall exactly how I felt getting up on water skis for the first time when I was 8. Nothing quite like it. The joy on my parents’ faces is something I won’t soon forget. I’m sure they would say the same about mine. I also vividly remember biking on the trails, wiping out, and face planting into pine needles. I believe both of these experiences are equally important. However rough the latter may sound.
I cannot say where I would be had I not grown up when and where I did. I can say that it led to an experience that will forever influence my life. The summer after college I decided to consider an AmeriCorps term of service. I had spent the last 4 years indoors in class, studying, working at the hospital, and using public transit. All of which are great but did not involve the healthy dose of fresh air, trails, flora, and fauna that I so craved. It was then that I decided to enroll with AmeriCorps and join the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Trail Crew.
I lived at 7 of Iowa’s state parks that summer working 10 hour days. Thanks to that experience, I am now comfortable using a variety of tools and equipment. In turn I became more confident in my physical strength and ability to help improve my surroundings. In no way, shape, or form am I saying that Trail Crew is for everyone (to be quite honest it probably wasn’t even “for me”). What I am saying is that regardless of our experiences with the outdoors positive, negative, plentiful, or nonexistent the environment impacts us all.
It saddens me to think that some other kid may not to get to share that same experience with their parents as I did. Our water quality now, especially in the summer months, is questionable at best. The warnings seem to be coming more and more frequently for people to, “get out of the water!”.
Instead of bottling up or distracting myself from that sadness I’ve decided to do something about it. I pick up trash and leave most places better than I found them. I feed the birds. I talk to my family and friends about climate change. I choose to buy food locally and know my farmer personally. I walk or ride my bike if a car isn’t necessary. I give my time and energy to organizations whose values I identify with.
At this time last year my husband and I were living in and exploring the Black Hills in South Dakota. Every weekend a different trail. We found ourselves once again in the woods. It left me reenergized and ready to take on these seemingly mammoth problems we face today. I decided to use that momentum and partner with the Sierra Club to raise money for Earth Day 2018. I cannot overstate how important that decision was. It felt good getting out there and raising awareness for something I deeply care about – our Mother Earth.
People are quite responsive when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. I would never describe myself as a salesperson, I admire those that can, but even I was able to raise over $500 for the Sierra Club. I found that my family and friends really did want to sponsor my hike. They felt my excitement. How couldn’t they? I’ve always been a believer that there is power in the masses. That if some of us try it will inspire others to do the same. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, I believe that the biggest impact will be made by more people trying imperfectly.
That is why I feel now, more than ever, long standing environmental organizations like the Sierra Club deserve our help. As I’m writing this Team Sierra has surpassed their $100,000 goal. Yes, you read that correctly, $100,000 has been raised so far with a week to go. No, you’re not alone in caring for our beautiful and only planet!
I know that we can help them meet AND exceed their goal. So will you join me? Will you help the Sierra Club take on our current administration? Will you be a part of the solution with me? If this sounds like something you’d be interested in head on over to sierraclub.org/EarthDayTrail and register. I can tell you from experience you will not regret it – regardless of how much you are able to raise.
*Editor’s Note: This article is written and sponsored by the Sierra Club.