By Dan Savino
I’ve come to find out that true joy can’t be manufactured. Serenity doesn’t come in a pill and love can’t be bought. In the same way, natural beauty can’t be built. Human hands can erect towering, intricate skyscrapers but they will never be able to reproduce that which comes natural. I am speaking of the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park, the hoodoos that come to life in Bryce Canyon and the giant redwoods that sprinkle California’s northern coastline.
This past summer I drove cross-country with my best friend. It was the first time in my life I had been off the east coast. I spent time in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Salt Lake City and many others. However, this wasn’t the best part of my trip. Nothing I saw as I crossed state lines stuck with me more than the natural landscapes did. I was in awe, absolutely fascinated and captivated by my surroundings. Suddenly the sky opened up and I felt as small as an ant. I had no idea how beautiful and diverse America was. There was everything from mountains and canyons to beaches, forests and desert. I had never seen a real, snow-capped mountain until we arrived in Colorado and I laid my eyes on the Rockies. I also saw my first redwood and cactus along the way.
Although human beings had no hand in creating our natural environment, they do have the power to damage and destroy it. Unfortunately, in a competitive, capitalistic society like ours, the most important things are profit and power. Corporations tend to focus on how to save money at any cost to the environment. If it costs less to dump waste into a natural water source, they will. If they decide to build a new warehouse or factory, they will destroy forests or swamps that stand in the way. The environment is always an afterthought. How is it that BP made a profit in the same year that they were responsible for the biggest oil spill in human history?
Fortunately, there are people who do understand the importance of conserving and protecting our natural resources. It seems our only hope of saving our environment is with everyday citizens standing up and creating grassroots campaigns to stand up to corporations and government projects that threaten it. Conservation efforts and environmental protection have finally become a legitimate issue in American politics and society. It is possible today for the government to protect natural resources and animals from harm. A perfect example of average people making a difference is the case of the Great Swamp.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wanted to pave the Great Swamp to build a new airport. Neighbors in the surrounding area rallied around the cause of saving the swamp. In five years time, they managed to gain the support of more than four hundred civic organizations in twenty-nine states and raise over four million dollars to buy the land that made up the swamp. With determination and commitment, ordinary people were able to have the land dedicated as a national wildlife refuge.
The lesson to be learned here is that it only takes a couple people to stand up and start a movement for change to come about. The natural beauty we possess is invaluable and worth protecting. My trip cross-country only reinforced this undeniable fact. The joy I felt in my moments with nature is indescribable and impossible to manufacture. Standing atop Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, looking down the depths of a breathtaking canyon, I found myself completely at peace. Times spent seeing places like the Enchanted Circle and Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico, Mount Shasta and Yosemite Falls in California, and even the desert in Death Valley, made me realize the importance of nature. If people don’t fight to conserve the environment, not only will we lose the beauty that comes naturally on this planet, we also won’t be able to survive as a species. If we continue to destroy our environment, there won’t be air to breath or sun to soak in. Really, it’s life or death. You choose.