When I reflect on our National Parks and public lands, my love for them, their importance, and their vulnerability, three quotes come to mind…
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. – John Muir
If you think money is more important than the environment, try counting your money while holding your breath. – Prof. Guy McPherson
If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. – various people credited
Members of Congress have been acting on legislation intended to sell off public lands and frankly, I’m furious. National Parks and the preservation of our wild spaces was originally an American idea to preserve ‘national and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations’. We seem proud to tout this good idea when ‘tut-tutting’ other countries and cultures for eradicating their wild spaces, and yet are frighteningly shortsighted today.
I can’t disagree with budget deficits and a need for more federal income. What I can disagree with is the shortsighted nature of these actions, and I can voice my concerns about the long-term damage the sales of protected public lands will have on people, states, our nation, and our planet. Opening these lands up for further development is a bad idea. Deforestation, drilling, and fracking at current levels are wreaking environmental havoc on our lands, wildlife, and planet. Alaska is at the forefront of climate change, and I can tell you… it ain’t great.
I was introduced to parks at an early age, thanks to parents and family who valued the outdoors (and kicked us out to play in it). I recognize the value of time unplugged, of our natural environment, and understand the circle of life and humankind’s small role in a big universe. Preserving our national parks and public lands are but a small price to pay for our big dent on earth, and the health and well-being of the planet and people to come after us.
So, if you’re sputtering and outraged, and your head is spinning (like me), what can you do?
Follow the bills, here and here. Contact your representatives (find Senators and Representatives by visiting this website). Support nonprofits who work to preserve the parks (I give to the National Park Foundation, Luc Mehl has a list of other great organizations). And most importantly, go outside yourself. Visit your local park, whether it be state, city or national. In 2015, over 305 million people visited our National Parks. Visit a park, get connected with it, and tell your representative you want to keep it.
I feel like there’s a joke in here somewhere… Something about going to a National Park for peace, quiet, and a connection with nature only to hear 305 million voices rising in unison to protect these lands.