We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
- Wallace Stegner
A couple of months ago I wrote how the slumping real estate market has proven a boon to land-preservation organizations, allowing us to protect magnificent properties that once seemed well beyond our monetary reach. While the dollar value of an acre of forest or farmland may have dropped across the country, the intangible value of that acre has never been higher and its rising every day.
The landscapes we safeguard remain a constant presence despite lifes uncertainties. And in these extremely turbulent times, we desperately need places where we can retreat, however briefly, from fears about paying college tuition, shrinking retirement accounts and job security. Whether hiking through a 10,000-acre Montana wilderness or sitting in Manhattans Central Park, open spaces give us the chance to feel kinship with the wider world. Amid natures grandeur, we experience great calm, solace and, yes, even hope. As Rachel Carson wrote, Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
As Ive also written previously, protected lands slow the impacts of global climate change. Working farms continue providing fresh local produce, which means the food miles of the meals we serve our families are substantially reduced. Conserved forests sequester carbon released from our automobiles and factories, while preserved marshlands act as buffers from predicted tidal surges. Safeguarding these properties takes on added urgency now because Congress likely will be focused on the economy for the foreseeable future, possibly delaying the enactment of laws compelling industries to substantially reduce greenhouse emissions. In the absence of national legislation, its imperative we step up efforts to curb climate change at the regional and local levels. One of the best ways to do this is by protecting more land.
While the value of stock portfolios may have taken a nosedive, for the sake of our sanity and the health of our planet we cannot let this deter us from making further investments in conserving open space. In 1851, as Americas industrial revolution was revving up, Henry David Thoreau wrote that In wilderness is the preservation of the world. His words have only gathered power and momentum in the years that have passed since he wrote them.
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