Great Old Broads have a tough job ahead, trying to convince the American people that wilderness matters – well, of course it does, and the more true wilderness that exists, the more quickly wild nature is able to re-establish some kind of stability on the Earth once more. That is obvious: yet wilderness is seen by industrial civilization as "other", something we are not connected to, and something to be feared and, in consequence, "tamed" for the benefit of humankind. Yet this taming process is what started the rot in the first place.
Great Old Broads for Wilderness, to give it its full name, want to keep wilderness in the hands of nature, and allow people – in particular older people – to understand why it is so important:
"Great Old Broads, with lifetimes of adventures and experiences to draw from, bring a broader perspective and valuable insights to wilderness discussions than other environmental organizations with more youthful memberships are able to do. Great Old Broads are uniquely qualified to speak up for the lands and to protect what we have learned is valuable and important. We are prepared to alleviate the destruction to wilderness, and we are optimistic that we will make a difference."
They were formed 19 years ago by a group of "ladies of a certain age" who thought that seniors were under-represented in the wilderness movement, as well as being used as an excuse to block wilderness designation on the premise that elders all need wheels to enjoy the backcountry. Green Seniors are proud to feature Great Old Broads as a Green Network, and a real asset in the efforts of seniors to turn round the march of environmental destruction in the guise of "development".
Veronica Egan, Executive Director, was keen to answer our questions about the group, stressing that she could have written an essay in answer to each of them!
Why do you think that modern society has undergone a progressive disconnection with the natural world in the last 50 years?
Our sense is that with the increase in urban population, and population in general, coupled with increased electronic entertainment and commerce and two cars (plus a boat, ATV, dirt bike and jet-ski) in every garage; folks simply are not growing up with the time or inclination to explore outdoors. All of these modern "conveniences" not only remove us from our natural environment, but they require ever-increasing extraction of natural resources as well. As well, parents are ever more fearful of letting their kids loose in "the wild", much less in their own urban jungles.
How important is the role of senior generations in bringing people round to understanding the importance of wilderness and wild nature?
We feel that it is crucial for elders, especially those who valued their time in the outdoors as youths, make an effort to connect with today's kids, the earlier the better! People won't be inclined to want to protect wildness if they are ignorant of it, or afraid.
What are your priorities for the next 12 months as a group?
We are focusing our energies on building our local "Broadbands", or chapters, thus engaging more folks in on-the-ground activities and service. Our main areas of concern, aside from actively supporting good wilderness proposals around the country, are our Broads Healthy Lands Project; which trains volunteers to monitor motorized impacts in their local areas and become involved in Travel Planning issues with the agencies. This project will ultimately be a nation-wide program. We are also involved in public lands grazing management issues in the West. We also conduct two or three "Broadwalks" a year, in places that have either wilderness potential, or are experiencing some threat, or both. Our website describes these events quite well. We just completed one near Mesquite, NV in support of the proposed Gold Butte Wilderness Proposal.
Green Seniors wish Great Old Broads every success in their efforts, and encourage you – dear reader – to discover your own local wildernesses, however small, and do everything you can to enjoy, protect and expand them.