Awareness through Experience: Our National & State Parks

Easy access to National and State parks should be an essential component to combating climate change. Hurd and Hurd in The Carbon Efficient City point out that we should continue to invest in our national and state parks so that people have access to natural wilderness and untouched nature that we do not find in urban centers. I advocate that it is essential, because experiencing natural wilderness on the large scales that are found in national and state parks creates a sense of appreciation for the environment. This appreciation can grow into awareness that as climate change progresses the environment we value in national and state parks begins to dwindle.

As a child I remember visiting Glacier National Park and being told by a park ranger that the glaciers were melting with some potentially gone within the next thirty years. Hiking to the glaciers is a much different experience than reading about them or even seeing photos of them. This experience instills a deeper appreciation and realization that climate change has greater implications on such pristine pieces of nature.

Allowing children to experience these parks at a younger age can guide choices that are made later in life around not only protecting national and state parks, but also around choices that we know impact the greater environment through CO2 emissions. Making the connections between our everyday choices and the implications on the national and state parks is imperative. Obama’s Every Kid in a Park Initiative is an important step in this direction. This Initiative gives free admission to every 4th-grader and their family in America to all public lands starting this September. The initiative also includes revised educational pieces about our public lands for teachers. Taking this a step further the the 4th grade curriculum nation-wide could teach about the connection between climate change and national and state parks.

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