Saturday, September 12, 2015

Diversity: Hearing the Voices of Young People

TMDA LogoMaking the Adirondack Park more attractive to youth of all backgrounds and preferences was the focus of the second Towards a More Diverse Adirondacks Symposium on August 15th at SUNY-ESF in Newcomb. We had a robust discussion, and the bulk of our time was given to the voices of high school and college-age students, from inside and outside the Adirondacks.

Why should the average Almanack reader care about what gets discussed by young people at a diversity symposium in Newcomb? Because in a world that is growing more diverse, the environmental and economic future of the park depends in part on the perspectives they hold.

What we heard might surprise some diversity skeptics. Rather than flowery expressions of idealism, we heard bread and butter issues that everyone cares about: jobs, transportation, better communications, the availability of goods and services. These are hard problems to solve, to be sure. Our young contributors did not look to economic solutions of the past, however. Young people are impeccably current; that perspective alone is valuable.

It was made clear to us that young people, regardless of gender, identity, color or culture, value the Adirondack Park as a protected wild place with healthy and inclusive communities.  “Why urbanize Newcomb?” asked one.  “Maybe Newcomb is fine as it is, without all the modern conveniences. Maybe the people of Newcomb don’t want what they have to be ruined.”

Many of the young people said they rejected the idea that a “small town mentality” was a bad thing. “What do neighborhoods in Albany or New York City have but small town identities?” it was pointed out. They said communication, a welcoming attitude and shared experiences matter, not homogenization.

The many ideas we heard at the symposium, convened by the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, were motivating. Several projects are in the works, from youth outings in the Adirondacks and Capital District, to developing transportation hubs, continuing work to diversify signage, outreach and marketing materials, and ongoing education and training.

As with the first diversity symposium in Newcomb, the energy and commitment of participants was terrific and speaks to the passion those who live and visit here have to make the Adirondack Park the best it can be.


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Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

8 Responses

  1. Mike Buznick says:

    “Diversity” is a cute name used by some to describe legalized racism.
    WHY would you want to bring a more “diverse” group of people into the Adks? The Adks are just fine the way they are….and one of the main reasons I come here is to get away from the so-called “multi-culturalism”, and the crime, noise, poor communities, trash, etc that is so prevalent in our cities, Leave the Adks the way they are and give up on your Oprah-esque social experiments.

    • Tanner says:

      Mr. Buznick, First, there is a diverse community already living in the Adirondacks. There are African Americans, Muslim, Jewish, Hispanics, GLBT people and even (obviously) straight white males. You have no more right to live here than anyone else. And I don’t know if you have looked around here lately, but there is plenty of “crime, noise, poor communities, trash, etc” in the Adirondacks. Try to get away from stereotypes and get to know people as human beings instead of some alien “other”. We are all in this together. The solution to our problems lies in a unified front, not in dehumanizing those who are different. That gay guy across the street may just be opening a new business that will employ 10 locals. He would certainly be welcome in my neighborhood!

  2. Tanner says:

    I think the young people are on track in that we don’t need to change what makes this place unique. Having said that, we need to be aware of the needs of the residents within the Blue Line. Jobs and infrastructure are as critical as wilderness and solitude to all of us here. Balancing these (often conflicting) needs along with a diversified population is the challenge today’s youth face. Ultimately, it’s the people who live here that will make this place welcoming to others. Regardless of your race, sexual orientation, etc., we all need to identify the specific goals and needs of the local communities and work together to make these a reality. Inclusion into a community begins by a sense of ownership and looking beyond our differences.

    • AG says:

      Unless they have oil and gas – non urban areas are not growing. Populations are shifting to urban areas because that is where 21st century jobs are.

  3. AG says:

    Regardless of race – the world is moving more and more to urbanized areas… That’s a simple fact. For the first time in history – more people now live in urbanized areas.

  4. Dave Gibson says:

    Pete, I was so impressed by the young people who were invited, who came and who spoke to the conference. Thanks to the organizing committee for inviting them, and thanks to you for writing about them. They made this year’s conference memorable.

    Please, everyone who attended this year’s conference, join me in making a financial contribution of any amount towards the effort to secure the Youth Edventure and Nature Network (YENN) reliable bus/van transportation. Go to to read about this mini campaign and to consider making a contribution towards the goal. Thank you.

    • Ethan says:

      Dave I attempted to donate but the page froze 3 times after submitting my info. Please have Adirondack Gives email me (they have my address) to finalize this

      Ethan Friedman

  5. Hawthorn says:

    Diversity is happening, whether someone likes it or not. It is like arguing against climate change–not going to get you anywhere. Personally, the young people I know are very aware of the Adirondacks and even though many are heading off to live in urban areas (jobs, jobs, jobs) they like to recreate in the mountains and are very strong supporters of preserving natural areas. Remember, young people have studied the environment since they were in grade school, unlike us old farts.

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