The National Parks: An Embodiment of Democracy

BySteven I. Green

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There were no national parks in the vary of my traveling abilities when I was escalating up. I did not definitely know what a countrywide park was. The words did not evoke any sort of image within just my experience. I under no circumstances visited one particular right until I was an grownup. It took me a prolonged time to master to value what a excellent point the nationwide parks are.

I have to credit history the Ken Burns-Dayton Duncan film “The National Parks: America’s Very best Idea” for opening my eyes to the full magnitude of that strategy. I was pretty much convinced of the fact of their thesis, that the National Parks truly may be “America’s Greatest Strategy,” immediately after the founding of the state and the formulation of democracy itself.

In an job interview, Duncan claimed, “I will make the argument that the national parks is our most effective plan. And the purpose is because it is in fact an expression of the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape, which is that the most stunning, most majestic, and, I would say, sacred spots in our country should really be established apart not for royalty or the wealthy or the well connected, as it experienced been in all recorded heritage, but for everybody and for all time.”

Today the strategy has been picked up all more than the world. The Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature counts far more than 4,000 countrywide parks. And that is good for the entire planet. It suggests that lots of of the most wonderful locations will be preserved for the advantage of all folks. It’s a worthy aspiration towards a better degree of society than 1 that just lets exploiters operate roughshod over every little thing.

The National Parks

The film grew out of Dayton Duncan’s deep enthusiasm for the national parks due to the fact his childhood. Duncan has labored with Ken Burns on almost every film, both as a marketing consultant, writer or producer, likely back again to The Civil War. But it seems very clear to me, from looking at interviews with him, that the movie about the national parks was a special beloved for him, and an intensely personalized vision.

The national parks have been 1 of the most profound passions of his life. The film was a possibility for him to set that passion into a cinematic expression. His like for the parks is infectious. The movie sequence won two Emmy awards, but even a lot more importantly, I feel, its extensive viewership when it arrived out in 2009 was followed by a surge of attendance at the Nationwide Parks.

I suppose the series motivated a lot of others the way it did me. I was really taken by the thought that the countrywide parks are the basic principle of democracy expressed in the landscape by itself.

Duncan reported that the strategy came from writer and historian Wallace Stegner, who wrote an report in 1983 referred to as “The Very best Idea We Ever Experienced: An Overview.” In it he wrote, “National parks are the greatest idea we at any time experienced. Definitely American, definitely democratic, they mirror us at our best somewhat than our worst.”

Stegner himself credits James Bryce, a British Ambassador, with coining the phrase. And there may well be other legitimate statements to remaining the to start with to articulate the idea. But, as with so lots of points, acquiring the “first” is most likely difficult. Beginnings are likely to fade into the mist of the previous. But that speaks to the universality of the thought.

In a 1990 posting in which Stegner credits Bryce for the phrase, he also acknowledges that “The tracing of concepts is a guessing match. We just can’t tell who first experienced an thought we can only convey to who initially had it influentially….”

The concept behind the countrywide parks looks to have appear from the populace alone, a spontaneously arising movement to secure the most gorgeous places from exploitative destruction. That much too speaks to it as an expression of democracy. The plan appears to have labored its way up to the governmental organizations that could enact legal guidelines to codify it.

It emerged out of a developing consciousness that those attractive locations out west would before long be overrun and possibly desecrated. It’s an encouraging example of how people today who believe passionately in anything can essentially make a variance, even in the deal with of effective forces towards them.

The origin of the countrywide parks themselves is also not quick to pinpoint. The website of the National Park Provider suggests, “Artist George Catlin, during an 1832 excursion to the Dakotas, was most likely the 1st to counsel a novel alternative to this fast-approaching actuality.”

Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness ended up all in risk, wrote Catlin, except they could be preserved “by some fantastic guarding plan of government… in a outstanding park… A nation’s Park, containing guy and beast, in all the wild[ness] and freshness of their nature’s magnificence!

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt ended up all instrumental in the enhancement of a countrywide park system. It is a prolonged and complicated heritage. We are fortunate that the strategy has managed to endure the political procedure and to progress as effectively as it has

When I traveled to some of the wonderful nationwide parks of the American West, I got the experience that the idea fundamental the parks is shared in standard by the people who go to the park. Undoubtedly, they haven’t all observed the Ken Burns film. But somehow there appeared to be an unspoken sharing of the ideals.

It struck me significantly when I was in Zion National Park, but the very same was genuine of all the parks I frequented. Men and women look to share a form of reverence for the place, for the setting.

The identify Zion refers to a hill in the metropolis of Jerusalem, but it is also outlined a lot more typically as “holy place” or “kingdom of heaven.” At the time I knowledgeable Zion, I recognized why it was called that. It is an astonishingly stunning put, with colossal mountains and steep cliffs, considerable operating drinking water flowing in crystal crystal clear streams. I obtained a solid feeling amongst the people today visiting that they appreciated that transcendent attractiveness and honored the space as a variety of holy area – a secular spirituality that creates a popular floor for men and women of varying religions to satisfy on.

I was extremely moved by the spirit of camaraderie I felt and noticed there amongst persons who were being naturally from numerous unique states and nations around the world and ethnic backgrounds. But the magnificent landscape, and a shared reverence towards it united everybody in an unspoken pact.

The way people treated other individuals, with kindness and regard, was a revelation. It was as if the reverence for the organic magnificence infused our interactions with each individual other. It did come to feel like a holy put. And it felt very good.

Could that have existed without the development of the nationwide parks? I doubt it. There experienced to be an official proclamation that set aside this land to safeguard it from individuals who would not honor its attractiveness and see it as a sacred spot.

One more detail the movie manufactured clear was that it was usually a struggle. The security of those spots so that they have survived in superior condition up to the time when we could get pleasure from them is a great blessing. It’s not some thing I acquire for granted.

But I am way behind. I have frequented national parks in Africa, Australia, Scotland, Jordan and other locations. And yet there are so quite a few in my very own country that I have not observed. I have to have to test to make up for that blank area in my existence tale.

Your humble reporter,

Colin Treadwell


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