Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Eclipse and Why Progressives Must Fight For Public Lands

The Eclipse and Why Progressives Must Fight For Public Lands

I never thought there would be a fight for public lands. But Donald Trump is president and here we are I guess.

I was lucky enough to have spent the 2017 Eclipse weekend in Spring City, TN, directly in the path of the eclipse’s totality. My fiance and I drove 9 hours overnight on Friday to ensure we could snag one of the few coveted free camp sites in time for Monday. In total, we stayed two-and-a-half days in nature. For free.

We spent the first day mostly keeping to ourselves. Relaxing. Cooking over a fire. Writing. Trying to play a dulcimer.

The next day-and-a-half we spent with strangers from New York City, Georgia and Texas. We bought shaved ice sold out of the back of a pickup truck. We swam in a beautiful sandy lake. We bought wood, a few necessities and gassed up in town. And we watched the eclipse. And it was beautiful. The best part was we had all come to the same spot for the same reason. To watch the eclipse on public land that provided free camping.

A threat to National Parks

But now, public land is being threatened by the Trump Administration. Specifically, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. And he will soon release his final recommendations for national monuments. The bad news: it’s not looking good. Parks across the country could lose their protected statuses if monuments are reclassified. It’s looking so bad that outdoor brands who usually do not advertise on television are releasing ads to ensure people understand the importance of public land.

My Time in Public Lands

I’ve camped on public lands more times than I can count. I’ve road-tripped across the country a dozen or so times, at least. Mostly with my fiance. Usually, we use freecampsites.net to find places to stay. We’ve stayed in State Parks from California to Kentucky and we’ve never had a bad time.

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The public land and minimal accommodations have provided us the privilege to explore the entire country on shoestring budgets. We’ve seen wild horses, immaculate saguaro cacti, moose, elk, eagles, the Grand Canyon and now a full eclipse.

Along the way, we’ve spent money at small town shops, Route 66 museums, road side stands, restaurants and gas stations everywhere, contributing to local economies.

We’ve met people from across the country of all races, nationalities and sexual orientations.

We’ve seen the Milky Way clear as day.

Once, a bear destroyed our campsite while we hid in our van.

Why Should Progressives Care about Preserving Public Land?

Beyond the fond personal memories I have of my times in nature, there are real political reasons Progressives should fight for public lands more fiercely. The first reason is equity. Free-use public land closes the opportunity gap surrounding nature. A camping trip can be had for fifty-bucks plus the cost of gas. That’s a lot cheaper than a hotel near nature and a lot more accessible to the working class than a typical vacation.

Secondly, nature is good for us. Americans have the right to see their country’s natural wonders without paying exorbitant fees or having to look past oil refineries that block otherwise immaculate views. The truth is immersing  yourself in nature can have significant positive affects on mental health, something everyone could benefit from.

Lastly, free access to nature  reminds us of the importance of protecting the environment. It’s hard to visit a National Park and not feel an appreciation for what it offers. This appreciation for nature is integral to the movement to protect the environment. It sounds obvious but, connecting with nature makes us feel connected to nature. And we humans protect things we feel a connection to.

 

What do you think? Should Progressives more fiercely support the fight for public lands?

Ryan Black is a documentary filmmaker, political consultant, and digital media professional who writes about Progressive Politics.

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