Today of all days, when we celebrate our nation’s independence, I’m happy to post this little painting of Liberty Peak in Nevada.
There are many reasons why I’m proud and glad to be an American citizen, but in my opinion, one of the best and most important things this country has done is protect our wild places.
I’ve lived in other countries, and believe me when I tell you that what we have in the United States—national, state, and county parks; wilderness lands; vast tracts of undeveloped space that we all may visit—is nearly miraculous. Only a few countries protect as much of their land as we protect of ours.
Recently our wild lands have been under renewed attack on many fronts: People who want to rape the land to get at her resources, scar her for entertainment, build upon her for their profit. And then there are the people who are simply so clueless that they just don’t care.
It’s the clueless ones who bother me the most. The people who litter while they are in our magnificent places; who tramp off trail and destroy fragile eco-systems; who poop on trail (or leave disposable diapers or bags of dog poo behind) because they can’t be bothered to carry out their waste); who won’t turn off their boomboxes so that we can all hear the complex warble of a tiny wren.
They bother me because I think they do not to love the land, and their carelessness seems to be contagious. They do not recognize the gift that we have been given by visionary Americans: open, untrammeled space. And if they don’t care about what they do, why would they care about what anyone else does?
There are not only a million small wounds on our land, there’s a distressing lack of voices heard in defense of her. And if we little people don’t value our great open spaces enough to band together, how then will we fight against those big ones who would turn our country into one huge open-pit mine and cesspool?
I came of age with the image seared in my mind of a Native American man weeping at the trashing of his/our country. Yes, people complain about it being racist, maudlin, etcetera. But I think it helped change a way of thinking for a generation. And it seems to me that that Native American man is still weeping. Our tears mingle.
I hope you’ll visit our national lands this summer. I beg you to treat the land with respect. Out of patriotism at the very least; out of deep, abiding love at the most.
And since I know that you, my dear reader, love the land and would not leave trash on her, please pick up after those who don’t know better.