The World's Spectacular Natural Beauty Must Be Protected
Increasing Demand for Public Space Means We Need More of It
Over the weekend, Gail and I visited some of the mountains that surround our home of Salt Lake City. Struck by the stunning beauty of what we saw, I’ve been reflecting on the implications of natural beauty.
Frankly, this nearly unprecedented draught year, following several years of below-average precipitation, I was stunned by the spectacular fall colors. They are the best I ever remember. Perhaps heavy August rain brightened the foliage.
Gail and I were not alone in our scenic leaf-peeping drive. Traffic for most of our 30-mile trip through the mountains was bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go. Every parking lot was overflowing.
With the roads operating above reasonable capacity, it begs difficult-to-answer questions about the future. Utah’s population is expected nearly to double over the next 30 years. How will all those people have the opportunity to see and enjoy the vistas? How will those priceless views of nature be preserved in competition for developable ground?
Before you write this off as a question unique to Utah, the United States and the world can expect to see significant population growth over the next 30 years. Utah isn’t the only place that needs to deal with the tension between where we put people, how we employ them and simultaneously protect remaining wild places and green space.
We are nearing a tipping point. This summer, we saw our National Parks overrun and overwhelmed by crowds seeking safe-from-covid activities. Reservation systems, limits and other crowd controls were implemented in some parks. If we want to live in a world where people can see and enjoy wild places, something has to change.
As a global population unitedly and in each and every community within it, we must advocate now for protecting more undeveloped public land. There are places that have been subject to some past mining or drilling that could be freshly protected to be restored for future generations. Now is the time for us to get serious about protecting public land.
This also means that we need to develop better housing strategies that ever-expanding suburbs full of single-family homes on big lots. As a condo dweller for most of my life, I can offer a personal assurance that condos offer practical, livable lifestyles for families, not just couples and singles.
By encouraging the development of higher-density housing we also address, at least in small part, housing affordability. Having a safe place to live should not be the privilege of the few but should be considered something approaching a human right.
There are a number of organizations working to preserve nature. I encourage you to explore ways that you can support one. Feel free to comment with your suggestions for organizations that you think are worthy.