Author: Sharon Gray
My environmental story starts at a young age. I grew up in Upstate New York and nature was all around us. We had a field and forest as our backyard and my sister, brother, and I was forever playing in it. My family camped at Lake George and we vacationed at a cottage on Cape Cod every summer. I learned to ski at a young age as New York winters are long. I have skied all over New York, New England, Colorado, Wyoming, and California. Skiing brings you into nature’s winter wonders – sunlit days, fog, and cold and windy ones.
Later as a young adult, I learned to sail. I sailed from Cape Vincent, New York often, which is a small village on Lake Ontario. I have also sailed the Finger lakes, Boston Harbor, and San Franciso Bay on all kinds of sailboats. I worked on a Tall Ship, the Regina Maris (a beautiful Barquentine – which had three masts) for nine months – sailing from Boston to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. I loved climbing, the rigging, pulling in the sails, and the view. Being at sea and watching the stars at night with no other light is a magical experience that I miss. I also miss the interplay of the ocean, the tides, and the sea creatures. I am grateful for these experiences. Sailing is an immersion into the natural world -water and wind power the boat, but the beauty is all around you.
My environmental story is unique, I guess, as I have done it through the lens of someone with a disability. I have been an amputee for most of my life. I am quite adept at crutches and have been able to hike all but the most challenging and steep trails. I have been able to experience so many outdoor sports, but with unique challenges. I hiked 2 peaks in the Adirondacks the year that I lived there – it was exhausting and difficult, but worth the validation that I could do it and the view. I have a sensitivity to others with disabilities who may not have access to trails at all. Making open spaces and greenways accessible to individuals with disabilities is a must – as all of us deserve the benefits of the natural world.
I worry about climate change as others do. I am concerned that my children and their children are facing a less hospitable planet to live on. I fear my carbon footprint is too great. I recycle, consign clothing, and have used reusable shopping bags forever, but I still drive a gas-using car, use too much paper and plastic, and use oil heat for my house. I care about using more vegetarian options to cut down on meat consumption. My youngest daughter tells me Bill Gates’s annual carbon footprint is 7,493 metric tons (how does she know this?) and mine is probably 5, but I can do more. My goal is to keep trying…little actions over time can lead to bigger outcomes.
I so value the perspectives of this team as we share stories, embrace good practices, promote diversity and inclusion, and expand the vision to make outdoor spaces open and accessible to everyone. Local impacts matter – and a group voice is powerful.
As we thank Sherry for her story, we also welcome communication and feedback! If you at all have any questions, concerns, or just want to have a conversation regarding what we share please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.