04.11.19 NORTH CAROLINA wins $1.8 million grant to expand outdoor industry in region

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Theme music by Chicky Stoltz

Noah Wilson is one of Western North Carolina's leading outdoor recreation economy advocates, and was a key player in the region's successful efforts to win a $1.8 million Appalachian Regional Commission/POWER grant, which will go toward expanding the outdoor industry and related jobs in the region. His work in outdoor industry organizing began with a formative role in the creation of the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina, and will continue as one of the lead implementers of the broad-based initiatives funded by the ARC/POWER grant.

He’s also a proponent of “regenerative economic development.” And here’s what that means, in Noah’s own words”

“Regenerative economic development is rooted in two ideas. The first is that nature often heals things stronger after they've been fractured, than they could ever have been if they stayed whole. If you break a bone, it heals back stronger after it's broken. And indeed, we have micro-fractures in our bones all the time, just like we have small muscle tears whenever we get a good workout, and that's what makes you able to lift more or run farther next time. Our bodies, and similarly, our ecosystems, need disruption, need to be broken a little bit, if they're going to develop. That's why so many ecosystems in our world were literally built to rely on periodic fires, or floods, or mass migrations of hungry herbivores. Getting broken a little bit makes them healthier in the long run.

Which brings us to the second idea: What is humanity's ecological niche? What's our role in the environment?  Our role is in many ways to be stewards of the land; to literally work in partnership with our places to make them more abundant. Sometimes that means starting a fire, or flooding a field. But it also means being able to bring in new partner organisms and materials, and to help fight off invasive species and pathogens. We have a unique capacity as a species to consciously shape our environments to be better able to nourish both human life, and the larger ecosystems that we're all a part of. 

When we practice regenerative economic development, that's what we're working to do; not to try and return to some idyllic past, but to help consciously steward the ecosystem through it's regrowth phase.

We're working to regenerate communities which have gone through the trauma of a socioeconomic fracture, and that process needs conscious effort. After a big break, you need to set a broken bone correctly if it's going to heal stronger. But if we do our work right, which is to help realign those pieces, coordinate the care, and bring in new resources and organizations to grow into and around those fractures, then we can weave together a more diverse and resilient economy and human community, that is serving its ecological niche by working in partnership with the land, to create abundance for all. 

And bringing it back to outdoor recreation: I firmly believe that getting outside and spending time in nature keeps people in relationship with their places. It helps them appreciate what makes their homes special, and inspires them to be better stewards of their land and community. It even helps people deal with their own traumas, which is why a lot of people turn to wilderness and the outdoors when trying to fix their own fractures, whether that be a nervous breakdown or high blood pressure or a substance abuse disorder. That's why it's a critical part of economic regeneration; it helps bring in new resources through things like new business development, tourism, jobs in land management or trail building or gear manufacturing. But it also helps people be better stewards and champions for their own health, and that of their human and natural communities."

LINK: Emergent Opportunities (Noah Wilson)

LINK: Full list of 2018 ARC/Power Grant recipients.

LINK: Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC

LINK: Mountain Biz Works press release

LINK: Wikipedia entry on Appalachian Regional Commision