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Perspectives on Sustainability: Part One

Our latest guest article comes from Kasie Enman, member of the WMRA  Athletes' Commission. Kasie is passionate about promoting environmental sustainability in our mountain running community and this is the first of a series of articles on the topic. 

 As mountain and trail runners, we have a more intimate relationship than most with the land we call our playground, the wildlife we share paths with, subtle changes over seasons and years. As we pass through the landscape, it is easy to get caught up in our own narrow perspective. In the springtime, I’ll cover miles of trail focusing on the forest floor, searching intently for morel mushrooms or the pop of color of an eastern red newt. Other times I am overwhelmed by the immensity of life I know is all around me, much of it hidden from my view, camouflaged into the surroundings. I try to remind myself often of the value of changing perspective, looking at the world through a broader lens. This is not to say that one perspective is better than another. What I want to take this opportunity to share is the importance of noticing the small things, the big things, the in-your face things, the hidden things - the whole system.

Kasie small 2There is this concept called the principal of self-organization that I had the great fortune of learning from professor, author, and ecologist Tom Wessels that he describes in this way: “As a system grows, it doesn’t just get bigger, it gets more complex and that complexity is derived from the parts of the system becoming evermore specialized and tightly integrated together such that each part, doing what it needs to do to sustain itself, creates conditions that sustain the whole. As a result, these self-organizing systems grow increasingly resilient, stable, and efficient.”

I think of us, mountain and trail runners, as a highly specialized part of the mountain ecology system. We are “tightly integrated together” with the land, the plants and animals that call that land home, the waterways that run through it, the communities that host and organize races, and so much more. We need the mountains for joy, health, a place to strive together toward our goals. And in the face of climate change and environmental crises, the mountains need us to advocate, be stewards, and “create conditions that sustain the whole.”

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some stories of environmental stewardship and systems thinkers from our mountain running community. These articles and posts will take the perspective of race organizers, federations, trail builders, and trail blazers. Along the way, I would love to hear your perspective. What actions can you take to promote resilience, stability and efficiency in both yourself and the environment? How can the WMRA help support environmental sustainability in our sport? Who are the role models for environmental advocacy and land stewardship in your community?

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