Episode 176: Expanding the Conservation Conversation – Gabaccia Moreno

Episode 176: Expanding the Conservation Conversation

Interview with Gabaccia Moreno

Sponsored by Danner

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Gabaccia Moreno is passionate about creating spaces to talk about what it means to explore responsibility. In both her freelance work and in her spare time, Gabaccia works on projects to help expand the conversation around conservation and public lands to be more inclusive and to tell a deeper story of what it means to recreate in them. This dedication to considered outdoor recreation is just one reason Gabaccia is such a wonderful host for our upcoming series,  See Us Outside, which launches Friday!

In the last episode of 2020, we get to know Gabaccia, the interviewee, before we get to know her as a host.

Full transcript available after the photos and resources.

Banner image by Zach Jones.

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Featured in this episode: Gabaccia Moreno

Hosted by Gale Straub

Music is by Jacob Montague, Human Pyramids, Joy Ike, Gracie & Rachel, Utah, Bradford Nyght licensed via MusicBed. Music is also by Josh Woodward.

Resources

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Featured in this Episode

Gabaccia Moreno

Backpacking in Colorado – Photo by Roberto Flores

Self Portrait

Photo by Zach Jones

Fly Fishing in New Mexico – Photo by Roberto Flores

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TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Gale Straub – Narration:

I’m Gale Straub and you’re listening to She Explores.

Gale Straub:

Are you ready to get started?

Gabaccia Moreno:

I think so. As ready as I will be.

Gale Straub:

How does it feel to be the interviewee versus the interviewer?

Gabaccia Moreno:

Totally weird.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This is Gabaccia Moreno. I asked her how it feels to be the interviewee because, for the last 6 weeks – she’s been the interviewer for a brand new miniseries we’re working on called See Us Outside. All four episodes drop in two days on the She Explores podcast feed. As the host of the miniseries, Gabaccia is our guide in exploring the unique relationships girl and young women of color have with nature and outdoor recreation. Before it launches on December 18th, I wanted to give you all the opportunity to get to know Gabaccia. Mostly because I think she’s great. She’s always eager to learn, she’s deeply considerate of others. I’ve realized through editing this episode and reflecting on our time together that working with Gabaccia has made me better at what I do. She’s the kind of person who rubs off on you and she couldn’t be a better fit for this mini series. I started off by asking Gabaccia a question that sounded much better in my head.

Gale Straub:

The easy first question is what’s your name? And you know, how would, how would you describe yourself a little bit high level?

Gale Straub:

Oh, maybe that’s a hard, first question.

Gabaccia Moreno:

I can tell you my name. [inaudible]

Gale Straub – Narration:

The reason it’s hard for Gabaccia to answer the second part, the describe yourself high level question isn’t just because it’s a lot to ask of anyone, to boil themselves down into a sentence or two. But it’s also because Gabaccia is passionate about so many things. And when she learns about a subject, she doesn’t constrain it to its face value.

Gabaccia Moreno:

I have many different interests and I’ve always been like that. So from going to college, I try to always do interdisciplinary programs. So for example, in undergrad, I studied theater and I did a minor in cultural anthropology and dance and French language, I guess, too, but not technically. I think I just didn’t finish that one, but I just needed one more class or something like that. And then for my masters, I went to school for performance studies, which is in its own self, uh, an interdisciplinary program that kind of merges all fields of social studies. I would say with looking at everything as a performance and the performativity of things,

Gale Straub – Narration:

As you’ll hear throughout our conversation, this approach isn’t limited to Gabaccia’s academic life. Her professional background includes everything from retail to restaurants to improv to running a swimwear brand. Today she works freelance: writing, design, advising businesses and non-profits. In her free time, she serves as the director of social responsibility on the board of the nonprofit Hiking My Feelings, hosting and curating the Joshua Tree National Park Association’s virtual series Desert Live, among other projects that align with her love of nature.

Gabaccia Moreno:

So I’ve just always been this person involved in a million things doing, yeah, just always doing different things, finding the next thing that, that I’m going to try out and explore. And when it comes to the outdoors specifically, I just, uh, I just like trying things. So anything that requires being outside of, even if it terrifies me, I’ll try it once.

Gale Straub – Narration:

As much as she’s a fan of multitasking, the outdoors is how Gabaccia finds rest too.

Gale Straub:

The one big question I have for you, and this is as someone who struggles with this myself, where do you find rest? If, if you’re, it sounds like you have a busy mind and you have a lot of interests that can be very energizing, but there is that need for rest.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Oh, I definitely find it hiking obviously on my body that is tiring, but on my mind, hiking is the most rest that I can have. And I finally came to this conclusion this year, actually, because I went on my first, well, this may count as not hiking cause I was backpacking. But to me it’s, I mean, to me, it’s all hiking is just different levels of it. And I went on my first solo backpacking trip and I did the collegiate West trail in Colorado, which is a section of both the Colorado trail and the CDT. Oh cool. And I was just out there by myself for 75 miles and I have never felt so relaxed. So at ease it was, it was unbelievable. And that’s when I realized this is really my, my break time, my, my resting time. And I think the, the key thing there is that it’s when I am by myself. Hm. You know, hiking by myself or now also backpacking by myself.

Gale Straub:

How often do you get to do it?

Gabaccia Moreno:

I’m I’m trying to do it once a week, which is, which has been really nice.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This calm that Gabaccia finds in nature today near home in Santa Fe took root in her childhood, growing up in Veracruz – a seaport on the east coast of Mexico.

Gabaccia Moreno:

It’s interesting because growing up, I didn’t, I spent a lot of time outside. That was just, I never even thought of it as, as an additional effort that had to be done or something, you know, like this, this idea or this concept of being outdoorsy. I don’t think it really existed for me until I moved here. It was just part of our lives. My dad grew up hunting and fishing. So he always just loved nature and animals. And I’m pretty sure he wanted to go to school to be a, uh, a vet, but I don’t know what happened there. Then he ended up being an engineer, but he always, always involved in doing several things just with the local government in terms of helping them with rescuing animals from the black market and rehabilitating animals and relocating animals when, when they became an issue for, for agriculture folks and things like that.

Gabaccia Moreno:

So that was just always part of my life. And because where I, where I lived, we had a lot of land. We would also take in a lot of those rescue animals. So we always had people always said that I lived in a zoo because we had anywhere from anteaters to, to cans and peacocks. And, um, just always like alligators, just always random animals hanging out in the house. Uh, we had pet deer so that those were my, you know, we had dogs and we had deer and they all live together in the yard and they ate tortillas and everybody working into my house got to feed the deer tortillas. And that was kind of like a highlight. So I was, I was really, I, and I didn’t really understand how privileged that was until obviously later in my life, when, as I started realizing how little access to the outdoors there actually is for, for most folks, just because in my life it was just always there.

Gabaccia Moreno:

And my dad was always, you know, looking for a new adventure and taking us to different wrenches and teaching us about plant ID and animal tracking and, and all of those things that, for me, they were just fun things that we did with my dad. And then on top of that for many periods of time, like we grew things and like, I know we used to grow high biscuits and watermelon and as a business. So we go to the fields and learn about that and get to see what that process was like. So we, and in many ways I was always involved in resource management and, and conservation cause that’s, I mean, that was the biggest thing with, with my dad being a Hunter is the hunting is conservation. You don’t just come and take, whatever comes in front of you, you meet an animal and if they have a life to live, you let them live that life. And then you give them the most honorable death that you can.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Gabaccia was unique in her family in that she was born in San Antonio, Texas, and holds American citizenship. So, after a stint in fashion school in Mexico City, she decided to challenge herself by attending college in the United States. I was curious how her relationship with nature changed when she moved stateside. Gabaccia shared that she’s noticed a lot more infrastructure here in our state and national parks, in contrast to the land preserve her family managed in Mexico, but that this infrastructure came at a heavy price. Gabaccia explains:

Gabaccia Moreno:

I didn’t do much outdoorsy stuff, quote unquote. Um, mostly because I feel like maybe I just was too much outside of my childhood that I just wanted to live in the big cities. So I lived in LA and New York and whatnot, and really stayed in the city and did all the city things. Um, but when I started going to Joshua tree national park and I became super infatuated with the fact that there’s a national park system and that people can have jobs working as a park ranger. And these are, you know, in, in my perspective, Oh my gosh, these are the coolest jobs in the world and how cool that conservation is a field so developed and so rich. And you know, so I’m seeing all this positive things about it. But in time, as I started learning more of the history behind how the conservation movement really got started and how that heavily has equated with the removal of indigenous peoples from their land and how limited access they really have to their traditional ways of being with the land, just from those removals, that has really complicated my relationship with the outdoors and with the conservation movement.

Gabaccia Moreno:

I’m not saying that conservation is a bad thing, but I am saying that the foundation of these ideologies and institutions that we subscribe to are really important to know and are really important to this mantle when they haven’t been founded on equity and inclusivity and diversity. And I would say an embracing diversity, right? So that’s been quite complicated, but I feel like there are many actions that we can take into what we call land back. And while we called equity. And I think that whenever we’re talking about the outdoors, so whenever we’re talking about recreating on our lands, we have to acknowledge that this lands are stolen, but that they’re rightful people who, or the original land managers are still here. And there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be part of this conversation. And so I hope that as we grow as a conservation community, as a recreation community, we start figuring out ways in which we can, right? Those wrongs of our, of our predecessors in, in the conservation movement. There’s something that I always say that before these lands needed to be preserved, they were sacred because people understood the delicate balance that nature requires, and that nature carries. So as much as we love being land stewards and protectors or whatever, we have to understand that that is a need that comes from colonization. It wouldn’t be necessary if we were all living in balance with the land.

Gale Straub – Narration:

On the whole, we’re not living in balance with nature here in the US. And it’s something Gabaccia thinks about a lot:

Gabaccia Moreno:

Having that easy access to so much nature here has opened my eyes more to a, the benefits of having that accessibility. And it’s easy to understand that you are one in a million people that are going to be here. And then lastly, just the delicate balance that having that accessibility actually means for us and the responsibility that, that puts on us as visitors to these spaces,

Gale Straub – Narration:

Having had these experiences have culminated in a life philosophy for Gabaccia: exploring responsibly, which she’s turned into an interview series.

Gabaccia Moreno:

You know, I, I say that life is an exploration, whether it’s outside or inside or however you want to define it for yourself. But I started using the hashtag exploring responsibly a couple of years ago, as a way to, I always say I, I do things to trap myself into reminding the things that are important to me. And I know that acting with a sense of responsibility is very important to me. I want to be held accountable for the things that I mess up. I want to be mindful about the spaces that I come in contact with. I want to learn about the native people of the places I go, because that’s also been another big part of learning about the United States and kind of connecting to my citizenship here. Yeah. So I think one day I was, I was thinking about it. I was like, Oh, like, what are other ways in which I can take this hashtag of mine, of exploring responsibly and make it more of a community space so that other people see that exploring responsibility as a cool thing to do.

Gabaccia Moreno:

You know, it’s not just me being a Debbie downer of like, Oh, if it’s fun, it’s illegal. You shouldn’t be doing it here. Or we shouldn’t have our dogs here or, you know, things like that, that sometimes I get it people in our own entitlement, we think that we are above the rules or the regulations or the law. And we don’t, again, we don’t see the fact that we’re the one in a million and we think it’s okay for us to do this one thing that it’s specifically stated that it’s not allowed or that it shouldn’t be done. And so as a person that’s always trying to share with other folks, you know, friendly reminders, whenever possible of what the regulations are in the spaces where we recreate, um, you know, and, and you get tons of different reactions to that, but a lot of them are defensive or, or, um, stressful or conflictive. So, you know, I’ve, I’ve learned a lot in, in my own ways of kind of being a land steward and finding the balance between trying to get people who are already on the trail to care a little bit more, if it seems like there’s keeping some of the rules. Um, and so, yeah, I came up with this idea that, okay, why don’t I just hop live on Instagram to have conversations with folks around exploring responsibly, whatever that means to them. And in whichever ways they apply it to their lives,

Gale Straub – Narration:

The openness of this – creating space to think through and deconstruct what it means to explore responsibility – is so welcoming, so needed, and so Gabaccia. We’ll hear more from Gabaccia, and learn about See Us Outside, our new miniseries launching Friday, after this:

MIDROLL BREAK

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back. As we heard earlier in the episode, Gabaccia works on a lot of projects – both as a freelancer and in her spare time. And much of her work is about expanding the conversation around conservation and public lands to be more inclusive and tell a deeper story of what it means to recreate there. Her work with the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree is a great example.

Gabaccia Moreno:

So the Desert Institute is a field Institute. That’s ruled by the nonprofit partner of Joshua Tree National Park. So they offer anything from science glasses to art classes, but everything, or most things happen in the park or around the public lands of the area.

Gale Straub – Narration:

She’s been volunteering with them for several years now. And since moving from California to Santa Fe has been able to expand on that work remotely through a series called Desert Live.

Gabaccia Moreno:

So we started talking about doing different programming and what that could look like. And so eventually they hired me to create the series of events that were supposed to happen in the park in 2020. But as we all know, the beginning of 2020 hit us with some hard news. That COVID is real, and we cannot just be doing so much, so many in-person things. So we eventually just evolve that into an online series, which was really cool because at this time now I’m living in New Mexico and it all seemed like if these events would have happened in the park, I would have had very minimal involvement other than curating the series and like enabling communications with the presenters and the leaders of the different workshops. But since it ended up being remote, then I got to kind of be the host of that. And we set up a lineup of diverse folks that just brought their own talents and expertise into the conversation.

Gabaccia Moreno:

And what it was really cool was that now, because we weren’t confined to the space of Joshua tree national park, we were able to have guests that have never even been to Joshua tree national park, but that also have very important messaging and are leading great conversations that are useful for anyone in the outdoor community. And one of those ex one of those, uh, examples would be Kristy Drutman from Brown Girl Green. She did an event about nearby nature, and I’m still inspired by this event because it was just beautiful to being community. And she guided us through some exercises to connect with the nature that’s immediately around us. And we got to talk about, you know, how urban planning of places. It’s very diff like how you can see basically discrimination is already in the urban plans of different cities. And you can see that just by spotting the green spaces that are available and where they are available.

Gabaccia Moreno:

So Kristy was great and she, she just gave us so much food for thought, and it was really awesome to also see the community from the desert, responding to that and acknowledging how that translates into their own communities. So that’s, I mean, that’s in a nutshell or one example of, of some of the work that I’ve been able to do, that’s really inspiring. And that, you know, even though like the, the desert life series, or at least season one, how I call it, it’s done. And we’re now in the process of gathering funding for potentially another season. It’s still a driving force and in what I do, and it’s such a big privilege to have the stage and to be able to invite friends from all backgrounds to share what they know and share their experience. And also to know that the desert Institute is really open and receptive of any ideas into making the space more inclusive and more accessible. So we definitely learn a lot, a lot with season one. And I have many, many thoughts about how to continue to make it more accessible and more inclusive. If we were to do that again in the future,

Gale Straub – Narration:

This passion for accessibility and inclusivity shows up in all the work Gabaccia does, including our upcoming miniseries made in collaboration with the Cairn Project, See Us Outside.

Gale Straub:

So see us outside. What initially got you interested in being a part of this mini series?

Gabaccia Moreno:

Well, you got me at, we are highlighting organizations breaking down barriers of access for young women of color

Gale Straub:

Felt close to your heart.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Yes. As easy as that, I think in our conversation, I’ve mentioned how I’ve been extremely privileged in always having this access. And I feel the benefits of having had that life and to me is of most importance that other folks have the exact same opportunity, whether they take it or not just knowing that they have it.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. So having worked on the series, like, you know, a bit or a lot about like what’s to come for the listeners, how would you describe the series?

Gabaccia Moreno:

I think See Us Outside, it’s an exploration of our relationships with nature as women and specifically as women of color and it dives into all the layers and the complexities that, that actually entails. There’s a lot of history that comes through. There’s a lot of fear that comes through. There’s a lot of anxiety and tension and joy and community that, I mean, just the, the beautiful layering of these relationships that women of color have with nature. It really shines through the series, I believe. And then having or hearing about the support that these organizations and the role that these organizations are playing for enabling that it’s super empowering.

Gale Straub – Narration:

The four organizations featured are Brown Girl Surf, Women’s Wilderness, Charles Roundtree Bloom Project, and Young Women Who Crush. All four have received small grants from The Cairn Project, a nonprofit that we’re collaborating with to make the series happen. One thing we want to clarify when we talk about the series is that when we talk about women and girls of color, that’s inclusive of cis and trans women and girls, as well as people from all gender identities who feel comfortable in spaces that center women. And when you tune into the series, it’s worth noting that when we talk about gender we do so most often in a way that centers women and girls. Something that Gabaccia has found is that just as she can’t sum up her essence in a few high level sentences, neither can we summarize this series. Nor should we.

Gale Straub:

So it is super layered and like woven together. But I hope that there’s a feeling that, that folks are left with, you know, with you as the guide and that there’s also, hopefully these touch points that feel familiar certain ways for people who are listening.

Gabaccia Moreno:

Yeah. Now that that’s ringing close to home right now, because I was just yesterday, I was reviewing episode four and trying to conclude something from the series. And I, I realize how it was really difficult to unpack that layering, that complexity of our relationships with nature. So we’re really just scratching the surface with the series, but I think it’s a great departure point for more work like this to get done, not just in organizations that are like the organizations that we talk about. They’re all very committed to supporting the youth, but I feel like every single organization can learn from them in how to create safer and inclusive spaces.

Gale Straub:

Oh, absolutely. When you look back at those conversations that you had, so Gabaccia as host, you had, I think you did eight or nine different interviews. Are there any conversations or slices of conversations that you felt like you particularly related to?

Gabaccia Moreno:

Honestly, every single conversation was so amazing on its own. I felt it, I mean, this, this has been such a, such a beautiful ride because having this opportunity of being energized by women, doing this fabulous work in the space of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, specifically for the outdoors, it’s it, it left me every conversation left me energized and inspired to do more. So that’s, I just want to get that out there. Like seriously, every single conversation was unbelievable, both with the white women that I got to talk to that are part leaders of these organizations and with the women of color that are also leaders in these organizations, but two conversations in particular where I really connected where one, the conversation with crystal Cisneros, because I think we have several things in common, both being from Mexican families. And also with her experience, having a, a white boyfriend, that’s something that I kind of kind of relate to in, in a different way, but, but I could understand her from that perspective. And then the other conversation was with Kristy peoples and Christie was amazing because she keeps bringing up this idea of doing, doing your own thing. However you do it and embracing it and finding joy and celebrating yourself and however you’re adventuring. And however, you’re pushing your own, your own limits. And however, you’re challenging yourself. So that was a really refreshing conversation. And those two have really carried with me throughout

Gale Straub – Narration:

Coincidentally, both Cristal and Kriste are instructors with Women’s Wilderness’ Trailblazer program, an outdoor wilderness program for and run by women of color. I was curious which organizations stood out for Gabaccia in her interviews as well:

Gabaccia Moreno:

I mean, I’m honestly I admire all of their work, but in particular I think the Charles Roundtree Bloom project is serving a community that I don’t see or hear or know that they’re being served enough. And so the Bloom Project serves youth that have incarcerated parents or relatives. And for me, well, when I was in college, I worked with youth a lot and I always, and when I graduated, I continued to work with mostly refugee children. And so I’ve been in many spaces where the youth have had these kinds of experiences and nobody is really equipped to help them, or to be able to have a, an effective conversation or relationship with them, or just having an understanding with them. You know? So I feel like the way that the bloom project has taken this, this community and, or actually turn it into a community, you know, saying, Hey, we are here together. We’ve all been through something similar. That’s not an easy thing to go through. That’s not, uh, that’s not a great thing to go through, but we can come together. We can create and find joy and we can heal together and we can use nature. And those connections as our tool, I just feel like that’s, to me that has been deeply moving to know that this space exists and it continues to get shaped by the community.

Gale Straub – Narration:

The importance of community is a running theme throughout the series, as all four organizations that are highlighted work really hard to create safer spaces to experience the outdoors. I asked Gabaccia what the series title, ‘See Us Outside’ means to her. But before I share her answer, I want to take a moment to share a sneak preview of the opening voice collage:

Gale Straub – Narration:

Here’s Gabaccia:

Gabaccia Moreno:

I think See Us outside is a great reminder for folks to actually see us. I feel like a lot of the time in the outdoor narrative or conversation, we hear this thing where nature is colorblind nature doesn’t see color, or it doesn’t matter, but I think it matters. It matters to see the color. It matters to understand what carries with a color and it matters to acknowledge when you don’t see it too much, right. When you don’t see it enough. And, and question that. So I think see us outside in, in many ways is notice when we are there, but also notice when we are not. And that’s where I hope folks will be inspired to take action and support organizations like women’s wilderness young women who crushed the bloom project, Brown girl surf that are doing this very important work so that we can be seen because the more that we are seen, the more of us that are going to feel comfortable being out there. And the more of us that are going to feel welcome out there.

Gale Straub – Narration:

This miniseries is powerful, and I can’t wait for you all to tune in on Friday. But before we sign off, I want to share one more project that Gabaccia is a part of that’s helping to transform the future of the outdoors:

Gabaccia Moreno:

One thing I’m really excited about is this work that I just started getting involved with through Nuestra Tierra Conservation project, which is an organization, a nonprofit organization based in New Mexico. And they are working with a collective of BIPOC led groups on a national outdoor equity initiative, such such as Latino Outdoors, Outdoor Afro, Native Women’s Wilderness. The Continental Divide Trail coalition is also involved amongst many other organizations that are led by Black, Indigenous and people of color. So this project is called Outer FUTURE. And future stands for fund for underserved tribal, urban and rural equity. And what this aims to do is to create more opportunities in the future for youth to have meaningful outdoor opportunities. I can’t give away everything because our press release is coming out in the next couple of days. But I would say that this is a huge movement and motion in the direction that it feels like everybody is really committed to move into for the outdoors for recreation for conservation. So I will say stay tuned and you can visit Nuestra-Tierra dot org to find out more when everything is released, you can also follow Nuestra Tierra on Instagram, at NuestraTierraNM and be on the lookout for some big news of initiatives led by, by BIPOC: Black Indigenous and people of color that will have a huge impact on the future of all our children.

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