Natural Dividends
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Natural Dividends

The Frontline of Nature

National Parks pushed to their limits, state parks being deforested, polluted waters, wildfire damage, graffiti, and human impacts at its most. Our national parks and protected spaces are the frontline of nature, and it’s losing ground everywhere you look.

It is now common to see humanity’s impact even in our most protected spaces. I recently traveled through CA. From the Deserts to the Redwoods and the Sierras to the Valleys.

This was taken in the Spring of 2021 on a road trip through CA visiting our natural spaces and shows a reality that we can’t keep taking from nature and need to increase its share.

🎥 @chris_bananas

Most of the parks visited could not be fully experienced because of damage from wildfire, floods, mudslides, and logging. While natural disasters close parks, on this trip, it was everywhere I looked, and no park was untouched. Below is the list of damage:

  • Wildfire damage at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
  • Logging because of fungal disease which killed the forests of Salt Point State Park
  • Wildfire damage at Yosemite National Park
  • Drought at Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Landslides closed roads at Redwoods National & State Parks
  • Drought at Big Bear Lake
  • Drought at Lake Mead
  • Pollution at the Salton Sea

Is this how we want to experience nature today? What was once raw, wild, and self-sustained has become, managed, dying, and on the brink of extinction.

There is also a story not told at these national parks. We have taught one version of history to the exclusion of many other narratives.

In Redwood National & State Parks, the signage glorifies the conquest of nature, showing how the destruction of the land brought an industry to the area and was a source of pride, without acknowledging the cost to Indigenous peoples and the environment. It glorifies the past mistakes without putting the spotlight on acknowledging them.

Only one park acknowledged it, and that was Muir Woods National Monument. In fact, this is the only time I have ever seen an acknowledgment like this, and I have been to almost every national park.

The Muir Woods sign explains that the way they used to tell their history left out the original caretakers of the land, women who organized to get the land conserved, and others. Instead, it gave all the credit to a wealthy white man who held racist views about Black and Indigenous people. There is a systemic problem with the way land is treated and managed in CA and worldwide — and how stories about the land get told.

Until now, the history of conservation has told us that European settlers came, conquered, and destroyed the land and Indigenous ways of life. Then a hero came along (John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt) and stood up against the system to say, “Hey, let’s stop this!”.

This history has left out the problematic aspects of these men and crucial perspectives of marginalized groups. There is an opportunity now to tell a different story — a truer story — by uplifting voices and perspectives that have been there all along.

Sign at Muir Woods National Monument acknowledging the mistakes

I also want to take a moment to comment on Yosemite National Park. While it is a very beautiful place, it is a park pushed to its limits. Often ridden with traffic jams, lines to see the view, and overcrowded camps. Get up before sunrise, park your car, and then don’t leave for the entire day. That’s the system, and it's far from a natural experience. The age of social media runs the show, as you can see in the image below.

One of the most beautiful views in the world experienced through a screen

There is often more focus on the phone than the beauty surrounding it.

This is a human story. Without protecting the earth and its resources, we do not get to continue our story. There is still a lot of beauty left out there, but there will be less and less of it if we continue at this pace. Nature is at a breaking point today. A culture, way of life, and how we think about the environment must change. We have to put nature at the forefront of the table and increase its share.

Learn more at www.naturaldividends.org

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Christopher Banas

Christopher Banas

Plant-based minimalist in SoCal who quit the corporate grind. Now teaches financial life hacking while saving the environment.