LATINO OUTDOORS: Pokémon GO does Latino Conservation Week

Blog by Albert Arevalo

Growing up in a household where both parents brought in little income meant that instead of playing with toys I would need to rely on my imagination for entertainment. My neighbors would prove to be more than just childhood friends; they would become my outdoor explorer companions. We would spend hours playing in el monte, aka the woods, and pretend that the evil witch from the Power Rangers was out there chasing after us. But as the sun would set, we would migrate indoors and continue playing but now on the PlayStation. That Christmas, my parents surprised me with my own atomic clear purple Gameboy and a Pokémon Yellow game. Now I could do it all, be an outdoor explorer and own my own game console.unnamed (1)

Never would I have imagined two of my favorite childhood pass times crossing paths, but just last week Nintendo allowed me the opportunity to experience the hybrid of both.

Twenty years later, the games, the cartoons, and the memories continue to allow me to relive some of my favorite childhood years. I can only speculate, but the creators of Pokémon GO, may have created an answer to the epidemic that is plaguing the Latino communities—nature deficiency and obesity.

With Latinos being one of the fastest growing minorities in the U.S., we are seeing similar growth in obesity trends. Being that Latinos make up 17% of the total US population, more than 77% of Latino adults are overweight or obese, and 38.9% of Latino children are overweight or obese.Additionally, only 8% of Latinos engage in outdoor recreation. 2

Though obesity is a chronic problem caused by several external variables, two common causes that may result in obesity are physical inactivity and overeating.3  An additional challenge that may add to obesity is individuals not going outside because of lack of transportation to outdoor spaces and competition with indoor entertainment.

Initiatives like Latino Conservation Week aim to engage Latino communities in public lands, create opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, break down barriers, and become allies in defending our natural places.

So cue Pokémon GO: this app is integrating technology with nature. Within its first week the much anticipated Pokémon GO App has become a must have for die-hard fans and new Pokémon enthusiasts alike.

As the National Park Service celebrates its Centennial Anniversary, Director Jon Jarvis and fellow park rangers spoke about the opportunities this game has in reconnecting visitors to their public lands. Ranger Ollig, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said:

IMG_6108“You can catch some Pokémon, you can learn about the sites and the memorials on the National Mall, and come back with a really meaningful experience,” he said. “As long as you’re safe and respectful of other visitors, come on out here and catch as many as you can.”4

The app even encourages people to put in work by walking a certain number of kilometers to hatch Pokémon eggs.  Aside from that, you can’t catch any Pokémon or gain control of a gym by staying stationary. This game motivates users to discover the outdoors spaces that are all over their own neighborhoods.

Pokemon GO’s unique gameplay even aligns with local Washington D.C. initiatives, such as DC Park PX’s short-term goal to:

“Prescribe NATURE to patients and families to encourage outside time in one of 350 green spaces/parks rated in Washington, DC.”

And their long-term goals to:

“Decrease impact of non-communicable chronic disease like obesity, asthma, and mental health disorders AND create the next generation of environmental stewards.”5

 With resources like DC Park PX park locator, DC residents could potentially access local green spaces or parks that are closer than they think.

This or future apps may have the potential of reducing a public health problem while also allowing us to reconnect to our public lands. The popularity of this app could potentially spark a new trend in active apps that take the user’s outdoors. What makes this experience so unique is that it allows users to experience the digital world while being active in public spaces.

While more research into gameplay and nature is still needed, I can only dream for avid game users or technology enthusiast to intergrade nature into their schedule—especially my Latino family. As I reflect on my youth, I come to realize what conservation means to me: living a simplistic life while enjoying and accessing our public lands. This game has provided an introduction to the outdoors to many individuals who otherwise may have not have connected. While the game does make you to visit outdoor spaces, I encourage you all to search for events on LatinoConservationWeek.com to explore and enjoy parks in a unique way. And as you continue to explore our parks for the rarest of Pokémon, please remember to LOOK UP from your screen and enjoy the outdoors.

 

HUFFINGTON POST: Latino Conservation Week: Breaking Down Barriers, Inspiring Tomorrow’s Stewards

Maite Arce Huffington Post

Place matters to all people. Latinos included. Many of our families have lived in this great nation for a long time and have lived on and worked the land. In some cases, our stories in those places are told today, and many are not.

Today, Latinos are not as actively engaged today in participating in our nation’s public lands. Even with widely documented support, only eight percent of Latinos participated in outdoor recreation in 2015, according to the Outdoor Foundation.

Yet, as the largest minority group in America — one that is expected to grow to nearly 30 percent of the population by 2050 — the Latino community’s engagement is critical to ensuring the future success and preservation of our nation’s public lands. There is a wide gap between population and use, but by closing it we can inspire a new movement of environmental stewards.

This is why the third annual Latino Conservation Week, which kicked off this past weekend and continues through July 24, is so encouraging.

More than 100 events are being held in 17 states and the District of Columbia - more than double the totals from 2015. The week is an opportunity for Latinos to demonstrate their passion for enjoying and protecting public lands, and it provides new possibilities for parks, agencies, organizations and even business to engage the Latino community.

Latinos are passionate about enjoying the outdoors and hold a strong belief that we have a moral obligation to protect it for future generations. Latino Conservation Week’s events introduce Latinos to new opportunities, new locations and new ways to translate their passion for the outdoors into making a difference for our nation’s treasured natural resources.

The National Park Service, as well as its Latino Heritage Internship Program, is holding more than a quarter of the year’s events at NPS sites throughout the country. Events include helping to protect the Colorado River at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, exploring Cuban American history at Everglades National Park and learning about the trails at C&O Canal National Park. NPS’s widespread participation demonstrates the spirit of Latino Conservation Week.

As National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in announcing the agency’s involvement, “We are thrilled to be a part of Latino Conservation Week ... As we look ahead to the second century, we want everyone to find their own special connections to the incredible places that are our national parks.”

More than 60 parks, organizations and community groups have joined Latino Conservation Week as sponsors and event partners. From agencies like NPS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service to environment groups like Conservation Lands Foundation, Sierra Club, and Wilderness Society to Latino groups like Por la Creacion Faith-based Alliance, Latino Outdoors, COFEM and LULAC, it’s evident that Latino Conservation Week is a collaborative effort with the potential to have a significant positive impact on the Latino community and our nation’s treasured spaces.

Latino Conservation Week is helping to break down barriers - a primary one being information - to the Latino population’s access of public lands, to encourage new opportunities to experience these sites, identify our personal connection to them and to create a unique platform for groups to reach out to this community.

The gap between population size and use is significant, but if we want to truly inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, embracing the Latino community is key.

Follow Maite Arce on Twitter: www.twitter.com/maitearcedc

PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE: Latino Conservation Week Celebrations Ongoing in Nevada

Public News Service

LAKE MEAD, Nev. — This week is Latino Conservation Week, and local groups are putting on events to draw more people to the outdoors. The Hispanic Access Foundation, the Sierra Club, Conservation Land Foundation and Chispa are helping organize the event in Nevada. 

The groups will host a visit to Gold Butte on Wednesday and on Thursday children from the Cambridge Community Center will go to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. On Saturday there will be a float trip at Clark County Wetlands Park. Christian Gerlach with the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club is leading two of the trips.

"For way too long the environmental movement has not been diverse,” Gerlach said. "The environment belongs to absolutely every single human being. Latino Conservation Week is the platform to engage Latino youth in conservation."

This is the third year Latino Conservation Week has been celebrated nationally. This year there are events in 19 states plus Washington, D.C., with more than 100 partner groups working with parks to inspire children to become environmental stewards.

On Saturday, teenagers from the Centro de Adoracion Familiar, part of a Las Vegas-area church, will be pulling invasive tamarisk trees from Lake Mead National Recreation Area and then going on a float trip in Black Canyon. Church organizer Cristina Espinosa said the land is part of Nevada's cultural heritage.

"It's important to have everybody go out the park, each new generation to go out in nature,” Espinosa said. "God has created everything and I think it's really important for us to take care of it."

Chelsea Kennedy with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area said the park is always looking to expose more people to the beauty of the desert.

"Las Vegas has a huge Latino community. And it's probably one of our most underserved communities. And a lot have never been out here,” Kennedy said. "A lot of it is transportation issues. So by doing this we're providing them the transportation and the opportunity to get out and actually see the areas."

For more information go to LatinoConservationWeek.com.

PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE: AZ Group Studies Heritage for Latino Conservation Week

Listen to story here Public News Service 

TUCSON, Ariz. — This week marks the third annual Latino Conservation Week, and organizers are shining a spotlight on the Latino community's concern for preserving Arizona's natural resources. As part of the week-long push, several groups are encouraging Latinos to go camping, hiking and engage in other outdoor activities. 

Rebecca Renteria with the Linking Hispanic Heritage Through Archaeology Program, said her group is welcoming back former students with a day at Mission Garden, Tucson's living museum.

"We are trying to get all the members of Linking Hispanic Heritage Through Archaeology all together again,” she said, "in addition to reaching out to high school students who would want to participate in the program next year. "

According to Renteria, the program connects Hispanic youth to their cultural history using regional archaeology, and offers students and teachers hands-on, behind-the-scenes archaeological experiences in the field. Other Arizona groups have planned activities such as a scavenger hunt at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and a kayak outing and clean-up on the Lower Salt River.

With more than 50 million people, the Latino community is the largest minority group in the U.S. and currently, more than two million Latinos live in Arizona. With so many Latinos in the state, Maite Arce with the Hispanic Access Foundation believes they can help play a major role in conservation efforts.

"By Latino voters, there is concern about making sure our natural resources are preserved long into the future," she added. "So, really thinking about tomorrow and protecting those lands from development and other threats."

Over the past three years, Latino Conservation Week has grown from 17 events in just a handful of states to more than 100 events across the country.

To learn more about Latino Conservation Week, visit latinoconservationweek.com.

Nia Edwards Ties Baltimore Latinos to Resources at Masonville Cove

Tanya Lara for USFWS 

In the early 2000s, there was a need to clean up the Baltimore Harbor and dredge material (wood, mud, silt, sand, shell, and debris) from the seafloor. From that project and a robust coalition of partners, Masonville Cove was restored and Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was born. Located on a restored site along the Patapsco River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dubbed Masonville Cove one of the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in September 2013. The partnership and education center have since served as a place for local residents and schoolchildren in Baltimore to connect with nature and participate in meaningful stewardship projects. The adjacent communities of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are geographically isolated and face challenges such as income inequality, concentrated poverty, limited public transportation, high crime, and low high school graduation rates. Today we continue our celebration of Latino Conservation Week with a post written by Nia Edwards, featuring some of the work she’s done to help residents of South Baltimore discover nature in the Chesapeake Bay.

My name is Nia Edwards and I am a graduating senior at Towson University double majoring in Spanish and international studies. I am the Latino community outreach liaison working with Hispanic Access Foundation, Living Classrooms and Masonville Cove to serve the local community in South Baltimore. I am responsible for providing the local Latino community with engaging events and materials and bilingual programming in English and Spanish, to foster a better relationship with Masonville Cove and build awareness about environmental conservation. By translating resources to Spanish and offering events in both languages, I help open up the lines of communication and increase accessibility to Masonville Cove resources for members of the local Latino community. For example in February, I led a community program on watersheds that focused on waste management and the impacts of urban debris on our watersheds. We also participated in Project Clean Stream, a Maryland-wide initiative to tackle trash in and around state waterways.

Although serving the community is a very fulfilling job, it was initially very challenging for me to address environmental issues with local communities.The environment appeared to take a backseat to basic needs such as housing, food and jobs. Aside from these socioeconomic factors , language also plays a large role and is a barrier when engaging these communities.

Our first clean-up with the community was a lot of fun and seemed to successfully address a lot of these barriers. It was eventful, well-attended, and incorporated a lot of giveaways, while providing food and a safe space for community members to get together. During our Brooklyn clean-up, we served over 100 members and the feedback from the event was fulfilling. We had a free recycling bin giveaway for Baltimore City residents, and provided an opportunity for kids and their families to decorate their bins. Our biggest giveaway, and the one that the community volunteers seemed to enjoy the most, was a free year-long membership to the aquarium. Valued at $125, the winner and their family gained free entry to the aquarium and access to exclusive aquarium events.

Events like these are a reminder of the good work we are doing and continue to do at Masonville Cove. Our goal to bring awareness and create a safe space for community members, specifically in the Latino community is constantly met during these events. For Latino Conservation Week, Nia will be leading a community event at Masonville called “Nosotros Conservamos” which will include a shoreline cleanup, fishing, and a nature walk.