John Muir once said, “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.” Even if we can’t agree on religion, politics, social issues….. the list could go on and on, we do agree that being in nature heals our souls and we believe it well enough to uphold our forefathers requests to keep wild places alive.
What does history teach us about the views of people about the great expanse that was opened up by the Louisiana Purchase? People were scared of what was out there! A vast nothing that lay between themselves and the Pacific coast is what most people saw the land as. A huge financial burden that our fledgling country couldn’t dare afford to make. Many didn’t want America to take on the challenge of this great unknown, but there were intrepid men, Lewis and Clarke, who made the expedition to find out what was out there. Aren’t we glad they did? Imagine what our legacy would be without the bulk of what is now the United States.
Then there comes the industrial age and building of the great railways that cris-crossed the nation. If something was in our way, we just pushed through or over or displaced it/them (the Native Americans). But then someone started making the decisions to set aside wild places for the good of our nation. These great forward-thinking men made the decision to force through their opinions that to be in the wild was likened to being in a great museum of art. I simply can’t imagine how the landscape of America would look if these thoughts hadn’t impressed themselves onto the thinking of President Theodore Roosevelt. How would we be now if we didn’t have the Yosemite Falls to inspire the great artists in photography? What would be our destiny if Alaska had stayed in the hands of the Russians had Secretary of State Seward not made his great political folly and bought Alaska? Who would we be if George Washington Carver hadn’t been inspired by the wilds of Missouri and developed his interest in science and the bounties that were uses of peanuts and sweet potatoes? Can we even imagine what would be the landscape of our lives if we didn’t have something to fight for in World War I and II after we saw in the devastation that rolled throughout Europe?
As we celebrate the 100 year mark of the monumental decision to create National Parks, places set aside for us to fight for and continue to conseve, let us renew our dedication to conservation and saving the wilds for the coming generations. We know that they heal us. Can we not share that healing with others?