Planet earth breathes more easily today, partly due to the global pandemic that’s consumed most of 2020 and with it commerce — especially global travel. An upside to coronavirus is less pollution brought about by jet airplanes, cruises and all kinds of combustion engine run vehicles. While this has draconian implications for many industries, Mother Earth is getting a much needed respite from the effects of over tourism and an intrepid global economy.
This forceful pause is having all kinds of impact on life as we know it. Some shifts, like movement in work-from-home philosophies by many large corporations, are already visible in society while other implications won’t be clear for years to come. Citizens are weary of stay at home orders, canceling trips and events, and a constant mindfulness that life as we knew it has vanished — replaced by face masks and “zoom” everything.
The optimism nature offers is what gets me through the ups and downs. For example, beautiful Volunteer Park up the street from me helps facilitate socially distanced get togethers with friends in a fantastically inspiring environment. Even amid a pandemic spring came and pushed renewed green upon us, filling in the void with organic delights like giant maple leaves and overflowing hydrangea — and in my case hundreds of bunnies hopping along local avenues.
Parks were sometimes the only friend available to invoke all the senses — touch, smell, sound, sight, and maybe even taste. Even after periods of closure with the State and National Park system, visitors came back in droves, donning masks and adjusting to new social distancing guidelines. In a world where international travel is all but eliminated for everyday Americans, outdoor recreation, centered around parks, became our new summer destination.
So it delights me to hear that this week recent legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act, was passed that will inject much needed funds into the upkeep of a myriad of parks throughout our beautiful country — from National Parks to county recreation areas. This impacts people who love to camp, hunt, fish, hike, bike, swim, bird watch and meditate amongst the inspiring elements of organic life. Every county in the country will benefit from this infusion of attention. Hiking trails will be created and updated, flood and storm damage repaired, services like restrooms restored and more land adjacent to parks purchased from willing sellers. Or, put in another way, a down payment on the future of outdoor recreation in this country.
It’s also encouraging to know that this bill was passed with bi-partisan support in the House (304-105) and the Senate (73-25) — the President tweeted he plans to sign the bill into law. Maybe this ushers in a new age of true appreciation of what I consider one of the greatest assets of the United States. That our leaders can actually agree on something is not lost on me.
It seems to me the power of nature and the importance of accessibility to normal citizens was highlighted by the extreme limitations to the hustle and bustle of everyday life pre-corona.
Though I’m no expert in government bills and spending, and I’m simplifying the details, it is a bright spot to me to see a $9.5B (over five years) nod toward nature. The funding comes from government revenues earned by fees associated with fossil fuel drilling and should open up opportunities for more direct and indirect jobs. The impact to local economies around parks will be favorable — but the spirit behind this acknowledgement indicates a shift toward appreciating the value of our organic environment.
It’s very difficult to say whether or not such a bill would be passed pre-corona, but I like to think a movement is taking place involving spiritual change in the world and our country. Our simpler lives, free from constant rattling of bigger and better, are starting to embrace more local alternatives in nature for enjoying time together. Movie theaters switch with a stroll along Alki Beach and Blue Moon Burger takeout. Flying the family to Disneyland is exchanged with staying at Lake Crescent Lodge and jumping into the frigid glacial lake water. Jet-setting to a safari in Tanzania is replaced by an Airstream ‘glamping’ experience at Joshua Tree National Park. Humans always find a way to cope and then adapt and our national treasures are helping us do just that.
So enjoy the parks knowing that they are here to stay — soon to be new and improved for another generation and always there to help lend a salve to the soul.
More specific information on the impact of the Great American Outdoors Act for Oregon can be found HERE. Washington State also expects increased funding, with more information HERE.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund stands to benefit from the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. To learn more about this click HERE.