Rising Routes: Shrinking Divides Through Adventure

January 2021 | Words and Photos by Jason Swann and Marisa Jarae

Klean Ambassador and Outdoor Afro leader Jason Swann explains his formation of Rising Routes, an organization embarking on a journey to shrink humanity’s ever-deepening divides through adventure, common ground, and celebrated individuality.

Colorado's wondrous sunrises, mountains, and diverse landscapes are powerful tools for mending wounds. Mother Nature provides a sanctuary for our emotions; a utopia that exists somewhere between imagination and reality; a place where we can become practitioners of healing. When we commune outside, we are bound together like an interwoven ecosystem and love is heard, seen, and felt. The endorphins that are released from spending time outside contribute to our freedom, peace and equanimity.

As wilderness writer Wallace Stegner wrote, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.” It hardens my heart to think that Mother Nature’s uplifting joy, peace, the good health it brings to humanity, and its natural resources are in danger.

Wonder of nature
Hiking in the woods

A wide variety of credible studies around the world have shown that the loss of nature is happening at an unprecedented rate and negatively impacting our clean air and drinking water, the survival of wildlife, and the health and prosperity of communities. However, climate change doesn't affect everyone equally in the United States.

Nearly 84 percent of communities of color and 80 percent of low-income communities in the West live in locations where the proportion of remaining natural area is lower than the state average.


According to The Center for American Progress report: The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial and Economic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America, “The costs of nature’s deterioration, uneven distribution of protected areas, are falling disproportionately on economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color."

This “climate gap” will only continue to grow in coming decades without active intervention. We must take swift action to uniformly preserve what's left of our planet for better quality of life for our families and the next generation. However, to help preserve nature, we must create a society and system that has the capacity to work as one, where people are accepted for who and how they are without othering or oppression. An oppressive, othering system can never hope to unite to save the planet simply because it was never designed to do so.

With these lessons in mind, Rising Routes was formed. Using the outdoors as the medium, we’re embarking on a journey to normalize differences and shrink humanity’s ever-deepening divides through adventure, common ground, and celebrated individuality. We believe tending to our mental health is at the core of relationships with ourselves and the core of relationships with others. It's also required to take on the work to change the system and thus preserve our planet. To discuss one without the other is insufficient. Deep and lasting intersectional relationships are best laid on a foundation where all parties understand their own pain, where they are in their healing process, have a gauge on their own wellness, and are at a spot where they can share and learn from others without being traumatized or actively retraumatized. Dr. Judith Herman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School explains, “The recovery process is based upon empowerment of the individual and restoration of relationships. The recovery process may be conceptualized in three stages: establishing safety, retelling the story of the traumatic events, and reconnecting with others. This includes the basic capacities for trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy .”

At Rising Routes, we're helping to facilitate that healing in the outdoors to rapidly increase humanity's mental wellbeing and quality of life, and come to a shared consensus reality. By using the outdoors to build community and facilitate approachable dialogue around environmental conservation, Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (JEDI) and personal wellness topics, we are ushering in a new community of co-contributors ready to dismantle oppressive systems and ultimately help heal the planet and ourselves. Along the way, Rising Routes is committed to building a strong network of change-making organizations to leverage expertise and bring our collective values and goals to fruition. To impart real, positive change on the systems we live in, we must work together, in tandem, and change our roles and identities within the system. We are the path forward; the next step; a new generation. We are Rising Routes.