Alum Amini bikes across country for environmental awareness

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Image from www.womenonwheelsforwildlands.com

Alum Ariana Amini (’13) poses for a photo next to her bike as she fixes a flat tire. Amini is part of an all-female team biking across the country to raise awareness for protection of U.S. public lands. “Now that I’ve immersed myself more in the issue I’ve realized how convoluted it is, and how many perspectives there are, and aspects that affect every element of environmentalism,” Amini said.

Although many people love the outdoors, not many people turn that love into a bike tour across the entirety of the United States to raise awareness for issues currently facing public lands. But that’s exactly what alumna Ariana Amini (’13) did.

Last September, Amini, along with three other women, set out to bike from California to South Carolina over the course of 3 months.

“After graduation, my friends had thought about doing a bike trip across the U.S. to visit a friend… I wanted to go on an adventure as well and I was planning on just going alone but [they] invited me to come and they had decided to incorporate the public lands aspect as a piece that would complement our going through a lot of public lands anyway,” Amini said.

It was then that Women on Wheels for Wild Lands (WOWFWL)was born. The group contacted organizations across the country and spread the word among friends and family.

“[We] raised a bunch of money so we could do the trip and pay for camping fees and food and things like that. At the end, we actually had a bunch of extra money so we donated it to one of the organizations we met with along the way, called Friends of Cedar Mesa. They were working hand in hand with the Bear’s Ears national monument to build a visitor’s center which doesn’t exist yet because the park is so new and is under so much scrutiny right now,” Amini said.

In the current political climate, environmentalism is changing and growing along with the parks.

“Now that I’ve immersed myself more in the issue I’ve realized how convoluted it is, and how many perspectives there are, and aspects that affect every element of environmentalism. There are issues over visitation in parks and erosion of trails because there are so many people walking on them all the time. I think that environmentalism has taken on a different element because of the growing popularity of our parks,” Amini said.

Environmentalism is so complicated. This trip only just scratched the surface of what there is to know about the issue and how different regions are affected. ”

— Alum Ariana Amini

Even with the 3 months that WOWFWL had to focus solely on the U.S.’s wild lands, the group felt that they were just getting a glimpse of the issues that public lands are facing.

“Environmentalism is complicated. This trip only just scratched the surface of what there is to know about the issue and how different regions are affected. The West, especially Utah and Nevada, because they have a lot of public lands so there’s a lot of contention about the Federal Government being involved and managing those lands and what that means for people who have lived there for generations,” Amini said.

Although the bike tour may have started last year, Amini’s love for the outdoors began to sprout much earlier.

“Growing up I spent my summers at camp in Northern Minnesota… mostly I did a YMCA camp called Menogyn,” Amini said.

Menogyn focuses on canoeing, and it was where Amini first fell in love with the outdoors – so much so that she not only decided to go back and work at Menogyn as an adult, but also commemorated it with a tattoo of a canoe on her left arm.

“I was inspired by all of my adventures in Northern Minnesota and Canada and also just my love of traveling by canoe. It’s just a serene and peaceful way of traveling and using your body to be one with the land. I really value using my body to go places,” Amini said.

This developed into a love for biking and hiking as well.

“I just think of doing all these mountain passes and then getting to the top and just cruising down for like 20 minutes and yelling and looking at all the beautiful scenery. I really grew to like climbing mountains and that rewarding feeling of going down the other side at the end was always enough reward to want to do it again,” Amini said.

This determination and sense of a reward is what kept them going. Amini stresses that anything is possible if you want it enough.

“It might sound daunting to be biking 5300 miles in 3 months but if you just take it day by day, believe you can do it, and trust your body… you can do it. You can do anything you set your mind to,” Amini said.