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Waving from Estes Park! Working on project to protect wild places. Join!

Hi everyone, I'm Eliott. (There's a TLDR down there if you need it!)

Orange Cliffs, Canyonlands National ParkOrange Cliffs, Canyonlands National Park


I've lived about half of my life in the Midwest and the other half out west. I live in Estes Park, Colorado these days exploring all the cracks and crevices in the mountains and making photo and video content for SMBs. I fell back in love with the outdoors during my time at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center out in Bridgeport, California. It's pretty tough these days to find wilderness so pristine in the US, and I've been wandering around the mountain states since I left the Marine Corps.

After eight years and two positions as Director of Marketing for a couple of outdoors/tactical companies in Arizona, I picked up my toys and headed to Colorado on March 1, 2020. 

What timing that was. For a year, it's been close to illegal to meet people. Having left everyone I know back in Arizona for a town with an average age of 59, It's been interesting living out the very thing I used to say all the time; if I won the lottery, I'd get a cabin in the woods and never be seen or heard from again. I didn't win the lottery, but I did get my cabin in the woods--just as well. I've been stretching out my photography and videography skillset since then, and I'd love to get to know some others in the area that are doing similar things (or just doing awesome things that want photo and video stuff done.)

Million Dollar Highway with LokiMillion Dollar Highway with LokiIn in the interest of relevancy, I know many people here are just as concerned as I am with the continued degradation of the last patches of wild land we have left. (Honestly, why can't we just have these little bits?!) I see trash bags, t-shirts, and all kinds of things floating in the mountain wind, bogged down in snow melt streams, and even up above 12,000 feet on the barren grassland of our tundra. 

Back in Arizona, I would often attempt to heal out the trash floating down the Salt River when I was trying to photograph our wild horses, and we're just running out of places to avoid it now. So, I'm trying my hand at convincing people to be a part of the solution instead of the problem.

Deep in my little office cave, I'm putting together a Planet Earth/Our Planet David Attenborough/BBC-style film series highlighting not only the beauty of the natural world, but how ordinary individuals can make a difference. I think it's pretty clear to all of us at this point that our government and corporate institutions have no real interest in this cause. We need more than token gestures and a few dollars thrown at bloated NGOs and non-profits that focus more on serving the executives than nature.

So what does that look like? The honest truth is that Amazon and Wal-Mart aren't hauling their trash up to 12,000 feet and throwing it out the window; regular people are. People that claim to enjoy and love the outdoors have abdicated their responsibilities to care for the last few acres of wilderness out there, and we've run out of space to accommodate their carelessness. Just taking a walk down any dog-friendly trail in Colorado is a colorful blossom of--not wildflowers--but bright, vividly-hued plastic bags of dog feces. Yes, people bag it up and then leave it because they just cannot be bothered and eew, dog poop. Someone from the government must have a job to come and clean that up. We're creating jobs! There are lots of excuses.

Public land suffers from the all-too-familiar tragedy of the commons. That is, 'nobody' owns it, and therefore nobody really cares about it. Likewise, many of the films currently available focus on institutional solutions that allow people to be lazy and perpetuate the problem because it's the government's job, not theirs. Maybe that's some part of the appeal. Righteous indignation from the couch. You change your profile picture border on Facebook and you've done your part.

We just can't wait for 'other people' to do this work for us anymore. We all have lives, jobs, families, friends, and hobbies. It's pretty tough to squeeze in volunteer cleanup days when the last thing you want to do is be around other people (and working) after spending your whole week working for everyone else. We all get that. It's time to hike, climb, swim, ski, grab a beer, watch TV, whatever.

Here's where my moaning ends and perhaps we can all get a little inspired together.

Kawuneeche Valley, RMNPKawuneeche Valley, RMNPFor the past year, I've just been picking up litter whenever I see it in the course of daily life. It doesn't matter if it's in a parking lot or on a trail.

I'm not going out of my way to spend loads of extra time hunting it down, either. You don't need to, since it's absolutely everywhere.

But if we boil down the old 'leave it better than you found it' adage to its simplest form, you only need to pick up one piece of litter to leave it better than you found it.

Did you know that 72% of Americans are planning summer travel this year (2021)? And if every one of those people spent 3 seconds to lean over and pick up one single piece of litter off of the ground we would clean up nearly 250 million pieces of litter in just one summer? How crazy is that?

Nobody has to spend time in a volunteer group, nobody has to spend any money, nobody has to sign a petition or call congress or write a novel in a Facebook group about how terrible the world is. 

The biggest win here, though, is that if we could message this idea and appeal to the value of our wildlands that everyone finds for themselves (peace, quiet, escape from the city, etc.), we could have millions of people actively no longer contributing to the problem since their incentive naturally is not to undo their own work.

That's why I'm beginning a campaign called #JustOnePiece. I'm not asking you to pick up two or three, just one. If you're out somewhere and you see a cigarette butt or a granola bar wrapper on the ground, just pick it up and throw it away. We'll get to recycling at some point, but for the love of God at least get it in a land fill and out of nature. Our unified collective action can do more to solve this problem that any institution could ever hope to do. Our institutions are a reflection of the society they're in, and we have to change before they will. It won't ever happen the other way around.

To that end, I'm applying my skill set in marketing and video to create my latest project titled, "A Place Among the Stars." My hope is that I can effectively message the human experience of our wild lands and the value thereof. In that, I'll also be exploring ways that individuals can make micro-adjustments in their lives to help the outdoors that cost virtually nothing in time or effort to accomplish. Litter lands on the ground one piece at a time, and that's just how we can clean it up. 

So for other REI regulars out there that want to be a part of this project, hit me up. This long-form film stuff is very complicated and difficult to do alone. As we've discovered over the past year, there is an awful lot we can do remotely, and I am looking for new and diverse ideas about solutions (and people implementing them) as well as videographers with access to stuff I can't get to right now.

For more information, head on over to any of the following places to see A Place Among the Stars trailers, sneak previews, and other work I've done for reference.

www.aplaceamongthestars.com

www.wildernessmediaco.com

www.thewildernessdiary.com

Here's a special sneak preview you can watch right now: https://youtu.be/O3yP7boYbNY

TLDR; I'm a guy in Colorado that's making a movie and would like to collaborate with other people in the area or people that have interesting ideas or footage to bring to the project.

www.aplaceamongthestars.com
2 Replies

@Ekroll - Wow! This was so great to read. The sneak preview you posted is truly jaw-dropping. It's quite special to be working on something so awe inspiring for such an important topic. Thank you so much for sharing it.

You are right that this community has many people who are passionate about protecting wild places. Hopefully some others are able to weigh in, support, and be inspired to join your #justonepiece campaign.

Welcome to the community! We are really glad you're here.

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thank you!

www.aplaceamongthestars.com