Viewpoint: Go outside, enjoy our national parks

Brooks Whitehurst | Reporter
Brooks Whitehurst | Reporter
By Brooks Whitehurst

It’s November in Texas, which, might I add, has been a glorious month as far as temperatures go. For anyone who enjoys camping, this is a (or, as far as Texas goes, maybe “the”) prime month to pack up your old Coleman or what-have-you and spend a few days “roughing it.”

Sadly, for many Americans, this is about as connected to nature as most get. You pack up your tent, sleeping bag, cooler and a thousand other little knickknacks into a car, drive out to a predestinated camping spot next to seven other families and build your fire with pre-chopped wood in a pre-determined fire pit.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to belittle anyone who simply wants to get away from the house and spend a weekend unplugged. I’ve done these countless times myself, but sometimes I wonder if people know how much more there is to be explored and valued among our nation’s state parks, forests and wilderness areas.

By now some of you have already decided who I am and whether the rest of this is worth reading. Some of you might think that I’m your stereotypical leftist journalist who just wants to drive a Subaru with a “Save the whales” sticker on the back and talk about how unjust George W. Bush was.

Well, I can assure you I don’t drive a Subaru, I’ve never seen a whale in person and I was hardly old enough to care about what Bush did when he was in office.

I did grow up in northeast Texas, in a southern Baptist church and was exposed to Fox News most days of my life, though. I’m very well accustomed with a conservative way of thinking, which is why I understand a lot of reasoning that conservatives go through when the environment is an issue.

America is a huge consumer of energy resources. According to Inside Climate News, we’ve surpassed China in oil consumption for the first time in 14 years.

Oftentimes we know where we can get resources: food, lumber, oil, water, metals, etc., but just as often we end up sacrificing our nation’s ecosystems and environments to get those resources. According to the US Geological survey, since the arrival of Europeans in America we’ve eliminated about one-fourth of all our forests.

I’m not asking you to start driving an electric car; I’m also not asking you to recycle.

All I’m really trying to say is that there is immense value in our national forests, parks, wildernesses and other nature areas that aren’t protected by the government.

I honestly don’t think that telling you about nitrogen fixation, carbon dioxide sinks, ecosystem services or other scientific reasons why the environment matters is going to convince you. Honestly, the reason I care about places like the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado, or the Ponca Wilderness in northern Arkansas, is because I’ve been there.

They are stunning landscapes that inspire awe and reverence.

I urge you to go outside, go to a different state, throw on some hiking boots or spend a night in a national forest and ask yourself if you don’t feel differently than you did before the next time you see a strip-mining project at the foot of a mountain.

Brooks Whitehurst is a junior journalism major from Longview. He is a reporter and a regular columnist for the Lariat.