By Dan Murphy
Everyone should spend ample time outdoors while doing their part to help care for the natural world is the overarching message John Judge hopes to instill in those who read his debut book “The Outdoor Citizen.”
Judge, president and CEO of the City Square-based Appalachian Mountain Club, the oldest outdoor recreation and conservation group in the U.S., which dates back to 1876, said he conceived the book as a call to action, to implore citizens to commit to an outdoor lifestyle and make the natural world the center of their communities. He coined the titular term in making this impassioned plea for everyone to become citizens of the natural world while offering an easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan on how they can “get out, give back, get active” (as the book’s subtitle decrees).
“One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from young people is, ‘how can I make a difference?’ and for so many of them, there seems to be this feeling of, ‘why should I even get out of bed in the morning when it comes to climate change?’” Judge said. “This is set up to be a why and how-to guide – why do we need to participate in a natural world, and how can I achieve that goal.”
In his book, Judge outlines his vision for transforming today’s urban centers into “outdoor cities” via the creation of more green space, outdoor recreational activities, eco-friendly transportation and sustainable food sources. He also offers a how-to guide to advise readers on transitioning to green energy sources and ultimately funding the model for a new economy that relies increasingly less on fossil fuels.
“The central premise is if we don’t connect people who live in the cities with nature, then we’re not going to succeed in pushing back against global warming and climate change,” said Judge, a resident of Mt. Vernon Street on Beacon Hill. “A lot of people who live on or near Blue Hill Avenue don’t know the Blue Hills are at the end, why is that? I think one of the critical pieces with creating an outdoor city will be connecting all the people who live there to the fun of the outdoors especially those from the underserved neighborhoods.”
Also, Judge proposes installing new plantings to create green latticework above Storrow Drive, with a breathable top running down its middle to function as a “cycling highway,” as just one unique opportunity for creating new outdoor recreation in Boston
“We have the technology to do it and could even use a laminated timber method, which is essentially sustainable harvest wood, to create the end product,” Judge said. “Technology keeps getting faster and faster. I’m excited about technological applications to energy that can better utilize green energy…and other new innovations on the energy front.”
“The Outdoor City” was the working title of Judge’s book until his publisher convinced him it could seemingly exclude the 30 percent of the world’s population not living in urban areas. Judge acquiesced and agreed to modify the title of his book to what went to press in an effort to bring his message of all-inclusivity in the outdoors to the widest-possible readership.
“I’m trying to instill in folks that everyone is part of the outdoors, and that in order for this to succeed, there can’t be any more exclusivity,” Judge said. “The outdoors are open to everyone and need everyone. The bottom line is where ever you are, this is a call for us to all get involved and hopefully be catalysts for a global movement.”
Judge need not worry his call will go unheard, however, because even before the Dec. 17 publication of “The Outdoor Citizen,” it had already garnered advance acclaim from the likes of Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia; Steve Smith, president and CEO of L.L. Bean; and Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University.
“’The Outdoor Citizen’ is a visionary blueprint for how individuals, communities, and, indeed, our entire civilization must act to become outdoor-centric in an epoch defined by both climate change and miraculous technological promise,” Aoun wrote.
Judge willingly admits, though, he had a deeper, more personal motivation for writing the book at this juncture in his life.
“My daughter is 3 and will be 50 in 2066, and that got me thinking about how the world will look differently and what are we doing now to make sure she has a great future,” Judge said.
“The Outdoor Citizen” is now available from Amazon and the Appalachian Mountain Club at outdoors.org.