Magazine article Earth Island Journal

The Road Ahead

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

The Road Ahead

Article excerpt

While putting together this special edition celebrating our national parks, I was reminded of the first time I visited the Grand Canyon with my family. We spent an hour or so soaking in the view of the vast void, then, after a short run through the model Hopi House gift store, we turned around and left.

I would have loved to have walked down one of the canyon trails and spend a night or two sleeping under the stars. But I come from an immigrant culture where our precious vacation days are typically spent with family--old grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, infants--not the best mix if you want to go camping in the backcountry carrying 50 pounds of gear. My desire to explore the outdoors more intimately is often stymied by the double whammy of cultural compulsions and lack of time.

Yes, I'm a statistical cliche, part of the changing face of this nation that isn't reflected enough in our parks. It's well recognized that we need to do a better job of breaking past cultural and systemic barriers and get our increasingly diverse population out in nature. To its credit, the National Park Service is working with several outdoors groups to make that happen.

What's not being discussed enough though, is the second part of my dilemma: finding time. I'm not alone in this. As our workdays get longer and eat into our weekends, more and more Americans simply don't have the time to switch off and immerse themselves in nature. This is doesn't portend well for the future of our protected open spaces.

America's national parks face many threats--climate change, development, resource extraction, attacks from the far right--to name a few. …

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