Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Environment

By: Cambrey Knapp + Save to a List

To make America great again, we must first and foremost protect America.

Most people learn pretty quickly that politics are not the best thing to bring up at a dinner party. Opinions are asserted, people disagree, feelings get hurt, and then no one wants to stay for dessert, which is really the biggest bummer. Especially with this most recent election, politics have seemed like a hot topic of discussion and likely left dinner party guests feeling awkward on both sides of the political spectrum (I feel like it should be noted that I really don't go to that many dinner parties; it just seemed like an appropriate example). And if you were even to peruse the news channels, papers or apps, you would be met with enough political he-said-she-said to fill the New York Times gossip column for years to come. With all the information circling around from biased and so-called unbiased sources, forming a political opinion can sometimes be an intimidating venture.

One thing that is so often thrown into the mix when people start to identify with political parties, however, is how people prioritize environmental issues. Yes, it's understandable and frankly necessary to include environmental concerns in the formation of one's political opinion. However, more often than not, policies and opinions on trade, economics, immigration and so on tend to cut in line of the environment, many times making it little more than a second thought. 

Now, before you get all up and arms about some way I may have already offended you (or may offend you as you read further), please know that that is not my intention. It is not my intention to tell you a party with which you should align, how to order your political preferences, or to shame you for prioritizing other issues. But I do think the onset of these environmental issues, namely those surrounding the very real advent of climate change and those involving the continued conservation of wildlife and natural areas, is more important than many people realize (or are willing to acknowledge). 

Yosemite National Park; photo by Kevin Moore

Imagine a large corporation: competitive, thriving, expanding, maybe even high on the Forbes 500 list, if you will. The corporation’s initial success was a combination of luck, timing, resources, and some of the world’s most innovative minds. So innovative, in fact, that the corporation begins to expand its markets and influence, subsequently generating large profits. The employees of the corporation recognize the potential of their work and continually put their heart and soul into the cause. However, this entrepreneurial excitement begins to engulf many of the company’s innovators, especially those in power. The prospect of greater success, wealth, power and prestige all become too enticing to ignore. For a while, it seems like the company will never fail. And so, the limits of the corporation become overlooked. It continues to expand locations, despite market depreciations and budget constraints. In hopes of bringing in new ideas and innovation, the CEOs insist on hiring more employees, despite inadequate funding to pay their salaries; they became less concerned with the workers’ value and more focused on the workers’ performance. To increase demand, the corporation spends massive sums of money on advertisements and marketing. Pretty soon, the company is struggling, spread thin and overwhelmed in debt. It becomes a game of numbers, of uncertainty and of shortsighted successes. Is their ambition to blame? Hardly, considering the assumption that very few businesses lacking ambition have likely achieved any success. Rather, the corporation failed to consider the limitations of its resources – money, employees, management, etc. As soon as the value of monetary success and power outweighed the priority of maintaining balance and realistic expectations, this corporation was quickly placed on a downhill track.

I think much of this concept can be applied to our very own country. The United States, our “corporation,” if you will, is certainly something of which to be proud. Citizens have worked hard and have overcome incredible circumstances to help build this country from the ground up. It has endured wars and depressions and division, but has also thrived in victories and market booms and unifying movements. It is a melting pot of cultures and thought and ideals and stories, and to that extent, I absolutely credit the people who have fought so hard for that.

But what about giving credit to the land, the very environment that displayed its potential and primed the ambition for a new country in the first place? What about its inherent and cultural value to the people who have sought clarity, solitude and adventure in its melting pot of landscapes? What about the agricultural and medical discoveries we have made by studying the interactions and properties of our flora and fauna? Do those get any recognition? We are blessed with fertile, expansive land. The very fact that the U.S. is one of the highest agricultural producers and exporters in the world, displays some of the impact this country has on global wellbeing. Shouldn’t we be more concerned about the longevity of this resource, rather than exhausting its nutrients? Shouldn’t we consider where our water comes from and what we can do to protect those watersheds? Shouldn’t we be valuing people’s lives, culture and health over oil and profit and competition?

These wild lands on which we walk have formed the very heart of America. Nowhere else in the world does one country hold such varied and expansive landscapes. The health and monetary benefits of protecting our country’s environment are incredibly significant. And yet, to fight for the environment solely for that sake would frankly be missing the point. This country holds an inherent value to everyone, whether they are urban dwellers or rural farmers, New Englanders or Southern Californians. No matter the demographic or geographic, this country matters to everyone. Our sprawling nation is all connected; we breathe the same air, use the same soil, and drink the same water. Some may try to mask these consistencies, but the point is, these environmental issues will affect everyone at some point. For the sake of cooperation and compassion for each other, shouldn't a pro-environmental stance be a unifying one rather than a divisive one? Shouldn’t it be more of an expectation than a meager consideration? It has taken a long time to build this country up to where it is today. Shouldn’t we be trying our very hardest to protect it for the generations to come?

Bryce Canyon National Park

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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