The idea of earth day is funny when you think about it. Shouldn’t we always be thinking about the earth? After all, it’s the place where we live. The only one. This is it. Can’t upgrade or move to a new neighborhood.
I used to be clueless about all that. I was an artist long before I was even aware of conservation. I grew up chasing snakes and loving the outdoors, but when I first went to school in physics and fine art I was clueless about the environment. It wasn’t until I began rock climbing and backpacking that I really started to fully appreciate the outdoors and the natural world. When I started to become more aware of the world around me, I decided to study biology in grad school, but even then I was largely drawn to biology because I wanted the adventure of studying exotic animals in the wilderness. And so little by little the idea that we have to conserve and protect the environment became just a part of who I am.
Now the idea of protecting the environment seems so obviously important and central to our survival, that it is hard for me to remember what it is like to be clueless about the environment. It’s funny how easy it is to forget your own past. It’s like people who become financially successful and then forget how hard it was to have nothing. Or Yoga teachers who forget what it’s like to not be flexible (although probably a lot of yoga teachers started out like little Gumby dolls).
So Earth Day seems like a great time to post here that I am mid-way through writing a book about my Roadless Project. “Roadless” was the first big project I did as an artist after leaving the sciences to move back into the arts. It was an exploration of a huge swath of US Forest Service lands that were designated off limits to road building. The project became way bigger than I anticipated – almost got out of control. There are almost 60 million acres of these lands scattered all over the country. It was an insane thing to take on alone.
Over four years I created a massive mapping website, traveled around the country, met dozens of people, traveled to Washington, DC to advocate for the lands, hiked, backpacked and kayaked into more places than I can count and eventually ended up showing the work in the US Senate building and then around the country. The project changed who I was as much as it helped advocate for the protection of those incredible places. And now I’m finally writing a book about all that. Of course, it is going to be called “ROADLESS.”
There is a lot to this story. It starts with the struggle I went through after finding myself in an administrative job after going to school to pursue a dream of working in remote wilderness. I started the Roadless Project as a way to recover my life after losing that dream along the way. It is a story about the need to protect our environment and my own need to restore a life that had gone off track, and what happens as I try to pursue both of those goals.
Here is a very small selection of photos from the project. You can see more on my website (nelsonguda.com/project/roadless)