Geographic Privilege


Many people who are qualified to speak about the effect space has on the mind and soul insist that time in nature is good for us. Aside from experiences in which mosquito swarms grow to hurricane proportions, I’ve found this to be incredibly true.

But is all natural space created equal? Does a manicured park or prairie field hold the same power as an ocean beach or glacial lake surrounded by mountains? I imagine one’s personal history may dictate that to a certain extent. If you grew up in Nebraska, the sense of home a vast, flat landscape provides may feel equally as majestic as a waterfall in the Canadian Rockies.

This weekend we visited family in the tiny town (and when I say tiny, I mean smaller, WAY smaller, than my high school graduating class) of Field, BC inside Yoho National Park. Fun fact: you can own a house within a Canadian National Park, but may only lease the land it sits on.

We visited Emerald Lake (pictured above) named for the color the water gets from the very fine glacial silt, or “rock flour” that flows into it. We also visited Takakkaw Falls. These sights are only about two, two and a half hours away from our house in the large city of Calgary. It’s not our first time visiting them.

Behold My Geographic Privilege

As I reflected on our mini-trip this evening I thought about how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world, and also how fortunate to have the means and transportation to visit these sites. While urban living (and the population density inherent in city life) may be the key if the human race wishes to preserve our planet (and these sites so dependent on the currently melting glaciers), it will be time in the splendour of the wilderness that will make environmentalism for environment’s sake worth it. We may convince ourselves to change our ways for the practical concerns of sustainability and our own continued existence on Earth, but an hour in the shadow of a mountain may do far more to motivate immediate desires for preservation.

It is my belief that by preserving such sites we also preserve our own happiness. How much more effective a therapist would be at convincing her patients to see the big picture if counselling sessions were held in national parks and nature preserves! The truth is that even ignoring the sad fact that many people will never have the opportunity to see such locales (perhaps they are limited by means or physical ability or location), there are many people who will never take advantage of their geographic privilege. These places aren’t just for camping-aficionados (you’d be surprised how posh some mountain resorts are) or the athletic (if you can walk around the mall, you can walk to the waterfall pictured). They’re for everybody, young and old.

So take advantage of whatever geographic privilege you may enjoy. Get out and breath the clean air and bathe in the sunlight. Listen to roaring water and birdsong. Lose yourself in a sea of green under a vast ceiling of blue. And find a new perspective doing it.

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