We Must Fight Back Against Threats to National Parks and Monuments

I can no longer keep quiet.

It should come as no surprise the power and beauty of nature is a driving force behind my art, which is why I’m increasingly willing to speak out about protecting it. I’ve been lucky to see some beautiful places in my lifetime, from the American Southwest to the Nile River, to the Great Lakes, and the majestic Alps.

A pen and ink sketch of mine while visiting the Alps in Switzerland over Thanksgiving.

I have also seen land completely ruined by humans. In Lebanon, where I lived and studied for two years, people often joked about how, if you go to walk by the Mediterranean, “never look down.” If you did, you would see putrid foaming water and  garbage. In the countryside, unregulated quarrying had torn gashes into the landscape. And, the remaining Lebanese cedars – with which Solomon’s temple was built in Biblical times- struggle to survive against centuries of deforestation, destructive beetles, and genetic homogeneity.

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Unfettered garbage dumping perilously close to the shore is polluting the waters around the Lebanese cities of Sidon and Tyre.
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The Lebanese government is now trying to grapple with damage unchecked quarrying is doing to mountain views. This is an unfortunate outcome for a country that depends, in part, on tourism.

Contrast that with Germany, where I live now. Here, every tree cut down must be replaced with a seedling and land for new building is strictly controlled. A country with 80 million people living in an area the size of Montana can’t afford to squander their natural resources. Lebanon, a land of over 7 million living in an area smaller than Connecticut has realized this too late.

It is easy to see how precious and fragile the environment is in places where human impact is obvious. I think Americans, with their short memories and vast landscapes, tend to think our land is unspoiled and inexhaustible. This, of course, is not true. Have we forgotten that Lake Eerie was once so polluted it caught fire? If we intend to conserve our resources for future generations, every decision we make now is paramount.

It’s my nightmare that one day magnificent places in the United States will one day look as ravaged as Lebanon or as tamed and sterile as Germany’s landscape. America’s national parks are areas set aside thanks to the wisdom of people like Teddy Roosevelt, who could already foresee the danger posed to them. If we let in the loggers, frackers, and cattle ranchers, they will not be wrecked overnight and they will not immediately appear as spoiled as the Middle East, where the process of desertification started centuries ago. Sure, maybe not in 20 years, but certainly in 50 or a hundred they could be completely despoiled. In many peoples’ lifetimes, we could witness the piecemeal rape of these places for the short term financial gain of a very limited number of people. The impacts, however, will be irreversible.

To be clear, these places do not belong to “bureaucrats in Washington,” and they do not belong to local people in Utah. They belong to all of us, most especially to the native people who hold them sacred. They also belong to Americans who haven’t been born yet! That means I get as much of a say in what happens to them as a cattle rancher or a logging company and so do you! 

This is why I urge my readers and followers to resist the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the size of the Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase Monuments by millions of acres. Here is what you can do:

The decisions we make now will determine the future. Ask yourself what you want the American landscape to look like in 200 years?

Scarred, trashed, dead?

As an artist, I know my skills and vision don’t hold a candle to nature in its most pristine state. I will fight to keep that beauty around and I hope you will, too.

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