We’re Rich In Magnificent Nature – But It’s Under Threat


Last week, Nicholas Kristof, breaking away from his usual themes, wrote a beautiful paean of praise to our national parks and forests in The New York Times.

He spoke eloquently:

America’s most valuable assets aren’t controlled by hedge funds; they’re shared by us all. Gaps between rich and poor have been growing, but our national lands are a rare space of utter democracy: the poorest citizen gets resplendent views that even a billionaire is not allowed to buy.

Roll out a ground sheet, lay down your sleeping bag and the vistas are yours. Particularly in a grim post-9/11 era — an age shaped by anxiety and suspicion — there is something profoundly therapeutic about reconnecting with simplicity and nature.

Kristof describes how he spent a chunk of the summer backpacking with his family along part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which in its entirety runs all the way from Canada to Mexico. And so he got to sample some of the U.S.’s “finest real estate,” as he notes.

The magnificence of this scenery is indisputable. Indeed, it was one of the main reasons that I ended up staying in California, rather than returning to England after two years, as I had promised my mother! I love spending time in the Sierra mountains, even with their unpredictable rainstorms and snow showers.

Our National Lands Are Threatened

But there are two reasons that we should be alarmed. First, as Kristof points out, Republicans have proposed opening more than 50 million acres of federal lands to logging, grazing and other uses. They argue that this would allow responsible “multiple use” of lands now locked up as wilderness.

Bruce Babbitt, the interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, has described the Republican bill as “the most radical, overreaching attempt to dismantle the architecture of our public land laws that has been proposed in my lifetime.” He said it would be “nothing more than a giveaway of our great outdoors.”

Number Of Visitors To National Parks Rapidly Decreasing

The second reason is too many people don’t care. The National Park Service reports that the number of recreational visits to our national parks was lower in 2010 than a decade earlier — lower even than in 1987 and 1988. There were 35 percent more backcountry campers in the national parks in 1979 than in 2010.

As I discuss in my book, Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future, children are spending less and less time outdoors, and as a result not only are they losing a connection with nature, but almost a third of them are overweight or obese.

Kristof suggests:

Perhaps conservationists need to expand their focus from preserving nature to encouraging the public to experience it. The only way to protect wilderness in the long run is to build a constituency for it, to grow the number of people who revel in camping under the stars.

What do you think?


Read More:

American Kids Need To Be Out There

Photo Credit: imjan

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Bruce Van Tassell

Your never rich in any thing when it's this close to destruction. Nature was once something appreciated and valued for it's own sake now only thought of as how much profit can be made. I cry for the youth of today and call them to arms against corporate power.

Mark Donners
Mark Donners4 years ago

Most of the lowlife of "elected" Congress and scum like Salazar do not represent Americans, they should be classed as traitors and criminals. They're worse than criminals, they're evil monsters.

Robert Dean
Robert Dean4 years ago

Most people are Fools and deserve their demise, which incidentally they will bring on themselves. The Age of Stupid that is the age we live in an age where we see nothing our politicians are greedy and very corrupt and think only of themselves. Their campaigns are based of smoke and mirrors they are blind to their own ruin and destruction, they see nothing but $$$$$ money. They disgust me

Robert Dean
Robert Dean4 years ago

Well it truly is a shame if these criminals are allowed to destroy the wonders of nature and all for a dollar bill. Governments are garbage they are truly brainless how Idiots get into government is beyond me, I guess Idiots put them there they buy their lies, but these idiots are destroying nature and future generations. A bunch of GOOFS!

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson4 years ago

Visiting The Grand Canyon,The Petrified Forest , The Painted Desert ,Seeing the Rocky Mountains and the Sequoia Trees in my childhood are things I'll NEVER FORGET. That travel inspired a life long love of nature and travel.It's a gift EVERY CHILD deserves. That's WHY I work so hard to defend our land and animals these days.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Another stupid poll question. Now, should we work harder to get people out into nature? I have mixed feelings about that. I think more people should RESPECT what is out there and not abuse it or exploit it, but on the other hand, we don't need more idiots from the cities trampling around in mountain meadows, throwing trash and abusing what is out there just 'cuz it's there. That's my back yard pictured above in the article! I was born and raised near Mt. Rainier and have visited many times. One respects what is there and I look in awe at the mountain every day!

Fewer people ae now "visiting" because it costs too much in many cases. Going in a National Park isn't free anymore!

Ernest R.
Ernest R.4 years ago

Visiting Yosemite years ago, I learned that it had become policy to create an amusement park set up to attract more people. I thought that people should find their cheap amusements elsewhere and leave the nature for people who would appreciate it. Visiting nature areas, I find pop bottles , candy bar wrappers and other trash in areas that many consider garbage dumps. The policy was probably due to the sick philosophy that if anything doesn’t make money, it doesn’t deserve to exist. Nothing is allowed to be free in “the land of the free.”

Cristian Prisacariu

I love Nature!

Dianne D.
Dianne D.4 years ago

What you are calling nature is the homes of wild animals and I don't want people (especially those that have no regard for wildlife) to be going in to disturb their homes. These stupid people are usually the ones that get in the way of wildlife and ends up getting them killed.

Glenville J O.
Glenville J Owen4 years ago

If we harm nature we are really harming ourselves. Nature is where our food, water, oxygen and everything else comes from, and helps us link up with our creator. Harming nature is like a space man harming his space ship. This world is our beautiful and bountiful space ship and we need to look after it.