two_worlds_cities_parks_cover_national_park_quest_dc_washington

The Clash of Two Worlds

A few months ago we raised a question about whether or not it’s good to have parks to escape to, wondering what it would be like to live in an integrated environment where we didn’t need “nature” as some place to visit because it would be taken for granted as our every day, constantly around us. Walking the streets of a city would inspire the same calm and peaceful provocation as a forest.

Our recent stay in Acadia National Park left me a little disappointed. False expectations told me it would feel more like a remote island, but instead the park felt like pockets surrounded by private property with powerlines, little towns and residences sprawled around the forests and shores.

Andres in front of an old homestead in Acadia, where early settlers lived off the land.
Andres in front of an old homestead in Acadia, where early settlers lived off the land.
near Acadia National Park.
Civilization near Acadia National Park.

Though stunning, I had a feeling of two worlds rubbing against each other; Acadia got me thinking about “park” land vs “settled” land.

If parks and federal lands didn’t exist, private interests would take over and we’d have a scarred landscape of unbroken concrete, pipelines, and any other construction built to keep up with the demand of an ever-expanding population.

Gazing at Niagra Falls on route to Acadia, a place where the clash between natural and built is obvious.
Gazing at Niagra Falls on route to Acadia, a place where the clash between natural and built is obvious.
Taller than the trees, NYC.
Taller than the trees, NYC.

Then we spent a few days in New York City and Washington DC, and my feeling of living in two worlds grew even stronger. The cities were everything and more: jarring, vibrant, inspiring, overwhelming, and beautiful in many ways. As a side note, New Yorkers are actually very friendly, and I wonder if you guys are keeping up the rude stereotype as some kind of defense mechanism?

Still, I have to say:

Jeezle petes, it’s no wonder everyone and anyone is stressed beyond their wits, and why was no one smiling? The sirens alone were enough to raise my blood pressure. It’s possible the wild west softened me, or I’m simply sensitive. But to think millions of people live in cities – do they become used to it? Doubtful. Our bodies and minds are chronically overstressed, hence a myriad of health problems. It’s possible a handful of meditation gurus can flow like water through these street.

For the rest of us, I understand why national parks have become so popular. People crave peace and quiet. Our modern city simply doesn’t make sense. The skyline of New York was beyond impressive to behold, but the haze was a painful reminder of the toxins we’re breathing in daily.

Granted, I have met people in both Chicago and New York who say they feed off the energy in cities, so maybe I’m not speaking for everyone.

Ducks in a row, a little diversity in the wildlife too, in Washington DC.
Ducks in a row, a little diversity in the wildlife too, in Washington DC.
This scene at the Hisshorn Museum in DC reminded me of Yellowstone, in the city.
This scene at the Hisshorn Museum in DC reminded us of Yellowstone, city version.
Central park is the best example of trying to integrate "nature" and "city"
Central park is the best example of trying to integrate “nature” and “city”
From the Brooklyn Bridge, New York.
From the Brooklyn Bridge, New York.

Yet it doesn’t make sense, why do we live in two worlds where we have untouched nature on one side, and overcrowded chaos on the other? Will we ever integrate?

How our two worlds evolved:

Now, this all started way back with the human drive to civilize everything in sight, dominate “nature” because we feared and wanted to control it (wolves and snakes are scary, and so is hunger). Except now we know we are part of nature and need to be in balance with the systems sustaining us. Our current trajectory is leading us to our self-induced 6th mass extinction.

Scary indeed.

Close your eyes and imagine a world where we don’t need parks because our homes give us everything a park does. Some people already have this. Others are creating it. Of course we can’t rebuild cities, but it is inspiring to open good old Google and discover something new. For those of you craving more natural connection in your life, maybe there’s something you can do in your own home or local community.

A seagull near the State of Liberty, NY.
A seagull on a rusty perch near the State of Liberty, NYC.

Here are some ideas and more thoughts on the topic, all gathered in response to my utopian dream of a world where parks are no longer needed and cities no longer polluted. Crazy for someone visiting parks to say? Not at all – everyone has the right to live a life in balance with our natural world. Everyone needs it.

For now I raise my idealistic eyes to the horizon, saying farewell to those cities and moving south into one of the most diverse mountainscapes in the world, trying not to overstress about the trail of pollution following us. Until next time you wild streets and lovely people! We’ll learn from you for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *