Lessons in the Backcountry with Laura Beebe

Emergency to Emergence

Oct 3 2021 • 36 mins

Laura Beebe joins Emergency to Emergence hosts, Nakasi and Dakota, for a rich conversation on the importance of the backcountry to human development -- her own and her students.  Resisting a guide’s tendency to define backcountry in geographical terms or locate it far from the places that bear obvious marks of human development, Laura conceives of backcountry as a "state of being" reached through immersion in natural places, relationships with other species and with ecologies, and a sense of belonging among the same.  But in this ranging and rich conversation, Laura also resists the all-too-common tendency to obscure the modern cultural forces that force separation, replicate problematic hierarchies and tend to make adventure and discovery exclusive.   Reflecting on several decades of often being the only women in male-dominated spaces, Laura also delves into the inclusive aspirations of Sterling College’s Wilderness Field Program and illustrates how extended backcountry education, paired with the study of natural history and cultural ecology, allow students to see into deep time, celebrate continuance, and figure out more about how they want to be in  the world.  [01:36] -Laura's definition of backcountry, "state of being" as opposed to geographic location and any place she can immerse herself in the natural space and a relationship to the ecosystem and environment that is the dominant relationship and describes feeling at home, alive, animated and as her best sense of self. [06:21] -Twenty two years later Laura speaks of crying on one of her first backcountry outings to becoming an experienced backcountry guide with amazing mentors along her path and how she was first woman in her family with an advanced degree and the need to pay it forward and  love of seeing people figure out who they are while in the backcountry. [09:19]- Relationship to natural world, who gets access, indigenous cultures stewards of the natural world, outdoors is an academic term, different cosmologies, epistemologies and discusses her respect for ethnobotanist Linda Black Elk and the notion that the same medicine exits in our own culture and land.  [19:21] -Four phases of experiences on the Sterling Wilderness Field Program explained with examples of hiking the Grand Canyon and traveling through layers of time and the diverse landscape and what it feels like for the body moving over it and how being in the field becomes your whole day and night and participants begin dreaming about animals and the colors etc.  [25:39]- Laura discusses how people show up with a life already and about serving people and the  idea of talking about risk management such as physical risks, like rock falls and risky decision making but we are not talking about sexism, racism, homophobia and all the oppressive forces that are actually risk management and that there are physical ramifications and emotional  traumas that can happen.  Laura thinks anyone who wants to be on these trips should and that it's a human right.    [31:30]-Laura expresses that we are called right now as humans in ways we haven't been or that look different and that we are here because we have the capacity to rise to the challenge of being joyful in this journey and t's about having fun or avoiding it, it's about fully embracing what's in front of us remembering we that we are not alone and the belief that if we can get ourselves in some of these situations, we can definitely get out of these situations and do it in ways that are fun, inspiring and connective and makes the whole journey worth it.