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National Parks

I spent some time in the national parks this year along with millions of other people from around the world seeking something, all of them armed with some sort of digital camera. On one hand I am gratified. On the other I am terrified.

Fundamentally, I suspect we all seek the same thing. It looks like a nice picture of a mountain, a stream, a lake, or sunset. A wild animal, no matter how used to human interaction it may have become because of the national park arrangement we have. Though on the surface it looks like a picture, I believe there is something more that brings the masses to these spaces.

Did you ever walk outside, perhaps leaving for work on a late spring or early summer morning as the full sun warms your face and you catch your first breath of fresh air? If your senses are alert (you had two cups of coffee), you may hear a bird sing, a Western Meadowlark perhaps if you live in Montana. In that moment, only an instant as you reach for the car door, your spirit is lifted. If you tune in to your spirit, then and there to enlarge the moment, instead of focusing on the stresses and cares you are about to face at work, you will know. Maybe take a step back and close your eyes. Take two or three breathes of fresh air deep into your lungs and turn directly toward the sun and let it warm your soul. Then you will know something about being fully human.

Human beings need to be outdoors, to have sunshine and fresh air like we need food and water. I believe this is what draws us to national parks, state parks, city parks, and other outdoor spaces. We need to be there. The outdoors feeds us, body, and mind. I am gratified that so many people have seemingly discovered this fundamental truth.

On the other hand, I am terrified. Overcrowding in the parks has become a serious problem. Park overcrowding is bad for visitor experiences, but it is also bad for the environment itself. "With more people come more litter, more noise, more pollution from cars and an increased chance of human-animal encounters, all of which can have a negative impact on the environment." Live Science, by Harry Baker, June 18, 2021. So, what is the answer? Simple. We need more public lands set aside for human – nature.

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