The Sierra Club’s Nearby Nature initiative is committed to building a more equitable, just, and inclusive movement by increasing access to the outdoors. Nearby Nature engages youth and communities to explore, enjoy, and protect parks, waters, and natural spaces in and around urban areas.
All kids and communities need opportunities to connect with nature to improve their mental and physical health and ignite their commitment for protecting the planet.
Communities that have been historically underrepresented in the environmental movement are often the same communities that experience limited access to nature and face the greatest economic, social, and personal insecurity today. Nearly two-thirds of the US population does not have close-to-home access to nature, with the greatest disparities found in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
A 21st-century environmental movement depends on getting more people unplugged and outside to create experiences that motivate and link individuals together to preserve and protect nature. By supporting community-driven conservation efforts, we reach across racial, ethnic, and economic differences to ensure all people have equitable access to nature, opportunities to connect with each other and their environment, and a voice in our shared conservation future.
Our Three-Fold Approach
The Nearby Nature initiative supports local campaigns to advance equitable access to the outdoors at the state and local level. Each local campaign incorporates three elements: service projects and outings, leadership development, and advancing public policies and partnerships that serve to break down barriers to getting outdoors.
- Service projects and outings improve access to nature, while building networks of community leaders with a passion for conservation. Projects are shaped in partnership with the local community and may include trail restoration, planting trees and gardens, cleaning up public parks to increase access to nearby nature, or hosting educational community outings. Most importantly, service projects address an expressed community desire and engage local community members as participants, volunteers, and leaders.
- Develop youth and community leaders through trainings and mentorship. Creating a just and equitable conservation movement requires investments in leadership development. Nearby Nature empowers participants with support, knowledge, skills, and opportunities to advance conservation goals.
- Advance public policies, initiatives, or sustainable funding streams to increase support for parks, public lands and waters, greening projects, and efforts that connect kids and communities with the outdoors. Nearby Nature campaigns identify and engage in new or existing efforts to advance equitable access to nature at the state or local level and build strong and sustainable partnerships at the community level to help advance these efforts.
Nearby Nature is guided by the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing, and a set of environmental justice principles including:
- Map and understand a community;
- Incorporate outings;
- Build partnerships and coalitions;
- Develop and support leaders; and
- Share power.