The 13ers: Emerging Leaders in Conservation, the Conservancy’s young professionals group in Colorado, is showing that some Coloradoans are new to nature but more excited than ever to make a difference.
Nature.org asked 13er Andy Vuong about making connections outside of the Conservancy’s typical demographic—and why loving nature doesn’t have to mean going without a shower.
What do you mean by your statement that you came to nature through a “cerebral place” rather than through typical “outdoor enthusiasm”?
I’ve always been interested in nature through the lens of science: decisions we make about nature influence the environment, and ultimately, life on our planet.
But, not until I moved to Colorado did I start to see the impact nature could have on an individual level, especially as an influence on a person’s personality and mental/physical health.
It was then that I saw nature in a different way and started to get very interested in how we might be able to protect it so future generations will have an opportunity to experience it.
How would you describe your relationship with nature?
I’ve come to enjoy nature, especially when I can experience it with basic amenities (running water, bathrooms, showers would be amazing!).
Nature is also like a house guest—great for a couple of days, but any longer and it wears out its welcome!
When the right conditions align, nature and I get along just fine; but get too complicated with logistics or duration… we start to have problems!
Your first trip to a national park was relatively recently—what was that like?
It was my first spring in Colorado, and I did a daytrip to Rocky Mountain National Park.
While I only hiked a very small part of park, the scenery and views were pretty stunning.
Pictures and words really can’t capture the experience, but I just remember seeing things I had never seen before, and being left completely in awe.
Besides the scenery, I was just as impressed with park itself, and how accessible it is for people with all different levels of abilities and desires.
Very rarely does something cater to everyone, but RMNP (and every other park I have visited since) truly does.
Experiences like this one coupled with having friends to try new things with have made getting outdoors and “roughing it” much less daunting, and every time has been well worth it!
Has the 13ers influenced your goals or perspective on nature?
I’d like to think I’ve helped start a discussion about new ways to reach and engage people outside of the Conservancy’s typical demographic, and have been fortunate enough to help the 13ers plan several great events.
It’s a great way to meet other people who share similar passions without having to make a large commitment, and anyone on the board would be happy to talk answer any questions you may have.