José González is an engaged community member, outdoor activist, and co-founder of organizations focused on inclusivity in the outdoor space. From Latino Outdoors to CA Parks Now to The Outdoorist Oath, José is making a positive difference in outdoor communities one day at a time.
What first drew you to spending time outdoors?
Spending my first few years in Mexico as a kid meant that the outdoors were just outside since I was born in a relatively rural town. Migrating to California meant that the outdoors was more of something we traveled to, but seeing sequoias as a 6th grader for the first time really cemented something magical that would expand into more outdoor experiences as I grew up. The outdoors offers so much, from places of meditative reflection to adventure and all types of learning. It’s healing, it’s educational, it’s stoke, recreational, it’s spiritual and more-- the outdoors offers much.
Do you have early memories of spending time outdoors that are meaningful to you?
Definitely seeing the sequoias as a kid and then much later, coastal redwoods. Talk about non-human kin elders. But also simply spending time playing in river regional parks, fishing with my uncles at recreational areas, and going to the snow for the first time. It was a combination of laughs and frustration. Often in my early years, it was a lot of fun but also it didn’t mean we always had the right gear for the experience we were undertaking, and that does matter at a certain point.
What led you to your involvement with CA Parks Now? The Outdoorist Oath?
CA Parks Now is one of several involvements where we wanted to account for the impact we could have through and on policy. We would say that to provide holistic outdoor experiences we wanted to account for people, place, process, and policy. The policy is people-decisions, and that shapes what we protect and why, along with how we invest in it. So for CA Parks Now we wanted to ensure that our state parks system not only had the resources to be accessible to all but also that we wanted to ensure they stayed accountable to that. With the Outdoorist Oath, we want to provide a framework so that individuals can see how they can be a part of systemic change in the outdoors, especially accounting for the planet, inclusion, and adventure. It’s recognizing we may all have different starting points in our experiences and call to action for the outdoors, but through interconnected collective change, we affect and contribute to a greater whole. Simply put, expand beyond any silos of action to have a network and collective impact.
Tell us a little bit about the importance of these organizations to the broader outdoor recreation community.
For any of us that enjoy spending time outdoors, to me, it comes with a sense of responsibility. Not simply to care for these places for a purely individual benefit, but for the community and the land itself. Nature is a necessity, not a nicety. The multitude of benefits it provides should not be something that is limited to only those with access and resources. When we go outdoors it’s a reconnection that provides joy, healing, and growth. And I believe we need that to be accessible to all of us. And through that process not just be a type of right we enjoy but also what is our responsibility that goes with that? So the importance of organizations like the Outdoorist Oath to me comes with how we ensure we stay in the community for collective action and systemic change because it’s what we deserve for each other and the land, to be part of regenerative cycles rather than oppressive extractive ones.
What are your personal goals in the outdoor space?
To hold the space of grief and gratitude that comes with the space. Much of our contemporary outdoor culture lies on stolen Native land and systemic oppression across marginalized communities. I want people to feel stoked and joyed in the outdoors, but I also do not want us to be ignorant or perpetuate the erasure of the historical realities of what created our public lands systems that are the basis of our outdoor culture.
Where do you feel most creative?
It can depend, but sometimes it’s watching the squirrels and crows and the entertaining lives they lead (well, at least to me lol).
What are your personal goals in the next five years?
It’s a good question because this continues to evolve, but I’d say that I both want to continue the practice of being a future ancestor while being of service to the community and movement. I ask myself questions like “how would the person I would like to be, do what I’m about to do now?” and “how can I be who I needed 10 years ago?”
What do innovation and adventure mean to you?
I think about growth-oriented challenges and creativity. I’d like to think we engage in diversity that leads to innovation because it’s valuing the power that brings. And the adventure doesn’t have to be in faraway places and with extreme activities. It can. But it can also come nearby nature micro-adventures, where you change your perspective and pay attention to things you likely didn’t notice before or took for granted. And it can also be in the mind, heart, and spirit as much as the physical body. For what is an adventure if not venturing forth into a bit more of the unknown to you?