Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Power of Being Outside

As another school year comes to a close, I start to think about going back into the open. By open I mean being able to spend my summer at beaches, riding bikes, and generally being outside more. The past two summers I have been able to experience the outdoors like never before- I was able to take a 7 day canoe trip in the Boundary Waters between the United States and Canada, as well as kayak the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore for a 5 day trip. The picture above is one of many caves kayakers can visit in the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. All of the entry points for these trips were through State Parks; all of which allowed me to see the untouched, pristine natural beauty of the Great Lakes. This New York Times article reminded me of my trips greatly and also brought up some themes discussed in AS this semester. Being able to travel is almost a source of power so who is able to travel? And why does traveling benefit a person so much?

“Why Am I at a National Park?” by Eric Nagourney explains how baby boomers have been a constant, reliable stream to the National Parks in the United States while people aged 16 to 30 have decreased in visiting National Parks. The article quotes Jonathan Jarvis, the director of the park service. Mr. Jarvis said, “The parks must compete with high-speed, high-resolution entertainment, with instant access to seemingly everything in the blink of the eye.” While it is certainly true that children and young adults in 2013 may be captivated by “high-speed, high-resolution entertainment,” some other factors that may be influencing young adults not being able to visit National Parks are that a majority may not have the power to. Baby boomers are starting to become retired- free from the responsibilities of children and work.

The ability to visit National Parks or travel around the country in general takes a type of power in the sense that a person would need to take vacation days, spend money, and be away from their general responsibilities for the entire trip. This made me think of some class discussions and themes that we have seen throughout the year. More specifically, this made me think of social class issues and the certain powers that accompany the upper and middle classes.  The powers of traveling include new knowledge and experiences with cultures and different types of people. Similarly, further research into this from the National Wildlife Federation found that children had “stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces” and that natural settings are “widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.”

As many issues in the United States fall into class, travel is no different. The benefits of travel have been shown but what steps can be taken to improve travel to National Parks as well as just around the country in general? Are we facing another true class issue or can this be resolved more simply? 

1 comment:

  1. "AJ",

    A really powerful connection between course themes, your personal experiences, and the most powerful generation of Americans.

    I would try to launch sooner into the theme of power and travel and be careful not to lose focus with the issues of National Park relevance to modern life (or the de-stressing effects of wilderness).