Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Interview with John Armstrong, outdoorsman

  1. When did you first become involved in outdoor activities? Where did you live and how did you become interested? 
I grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York and my family spent most free time outside doing anything and everything from hiking to canoeing. That love of the outdoors, instilled from a very young age, has stuck with me to this day. There’s something pure and beautiful about being outdoors and surrounded by nature.

  1. How did your activities evolve? Who did you do them with… alone or with others?
I have always been fortunate to have an older brother with whom I am very close, and we have always done a tremendous amount outdoors together, as well as with the rest of my family and friends. When we were very young, we would explore the woods, play in the stream, and make bike paths in the woods. As we got older, we tended to drift toward more adventurous outdoor pursuits. Now we seem to have found our calling with rock and ice climbing.

  1. Can you give a brief description of one or more of the places you enjoyed? Why was it (or why were they) special to you?
John Armstrong, climbing in the Gunks
One of the places that holds a special place in my heart is the Shawangunk Ridge, more commonly called the Gunks. The Gunks are a series of exposed cliff faces about 250’ tall on top of a ridge right outside of New Paltz, in the Hudson Valley of New York. It’s one of the best rock climbing destinations in the world, as well as being home to many hiking trails and beautiful streams. As you’re climbing, you look down across the beautiful Hudson Valley and old farms. Since you’re already climbing on the top of a ridge, as soon as you set off the ground it is as if you’re high above the ground, up amidst the birds. There are always many Turkey Vultures swarming, and you often see Peregrine Falcons swooping by at eye level. I learned to rock climb there with my brother and friends from college, and I continue to spend a great deal of time there each year.

  1. Did you become involved in environmental activities in college? If so, what did you do?
In college, I focused mostly on ecology research and understanding ecosystems. I was most interested in high elevation ecosystems, generally the top portion of mountains. Those high elevation ecosystems are some of the most interesting, but also the most fragile. In fact, they are under the greatest threat from climate change. Many of the animal and wildlife species that have carved out a precarious existence in the harsh and very specific conditions of high elevation ecosystems are at risk of extinction with climate change. What happens it that as the climate warms, the harsh conditions near the top of mountains becomes less harsh, and the more aggressive species that thrive at lower elevations can move farther up the mountain, stifling and eventually destroying the fragile high elevation inhabitants.

  1. I understand that you were one of the organizers of Power Shift. What is the vision of Power Shift? Who got the original idea for it? What were its accomplishments?
The idea of Power Shift is to unify and empower the youth climate movement. It’s run by a coalition of many big environmental groups, Energy Action Coalition, which is now the overarching umbrella for the youth environmental movement. This past Power Shift brought 10,000 youth from all around the country together for four days of grassroots organizing training, campaign planning, inspiration, and action. It served as the launching ground for hundreds of local campaigns run by trained, motivated youth activists.

  1. What is your work now with Frack Action?
I’m working with Frack Action to protect New York State from the grave threat of fracking for natural gas. Natural gas threatens New York’s health, environment, and economy. It’s a dangerous form of extreme fossil fuel extraction that has a long history of water contamination, air pollution, and devastating communities. We work on a mix of grassroots organizing, communications work, and advocacy to spread the truth about fracking and mobilize people to take a stand against it.

  1. Do you view your current job/activism as a natural outgrowth of your love of the outdoors? In what ways?
It is natural that people who love the outdoors want to take action to protect it. People like me have a great appreciation for keeping the environment healthy, protecting the beauty of nature, and not destroying that for our future and future generations.

  1. What do you see as your next step? Please include your dream job, if possible!
I’m definitely going to continue working to stop fracking in New York State. At some point I will go to grad school in a PhD program with an environmental focus.

Link to Frack Action:


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