“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
I had intended to finish the last installments of the Not Another Diet Series, but instead a confluence of circumstances has me writing about public parks (or just public spaces).
Stay with me, it’s more interesting than it might appear on first glance, and a good example of the kind of writing I am headed towards: making connections to illuminate the way good thinking can improve our lives and the world around us.
The first circumstance was my recent camper vacation through Florida (see photo below). I bought that camper on the heels of my first round of treatment for breast cancer. Chemotherapy had a profound effect on my body and state of mind. During those months of idleness I thought constantly about putting myself into the natural world. Using my body to hike and swim felt like salvation, and indeed, it was healing. I wrote about that experience here
The second circumstance was an interesting conversation I had with a man who spends a good deal of time in nature, which means being on public lands. He off-handedly made the point that public parks ought to charge enough to support themselves. In other words, not be a drain to the taxpayer. On the face of it, not an unreasonable idea.
However, the unintended consequences of asking public parks to monetize themselves like a business are easy to spot. I’ve been to at least 50 state, federal, Bureau of Land Management, and Army Corps of Engineers public lands in the last three years and I can tell you there are serious issues with how we treat them. Environmental degradation from boats, huge campers, cattle grazing and thoughtless tourism abounds.
But, I digress. The point I most want to make is that public spaces are mental health spaces, and science is catching up to that idea. We need nature to connect with our essential selves and to cope with the challenges of being alive. If that’s true (and, it is), then public parks have no business being in business. Every dollar we put in is an investment into our individual and collective well-being.
I operate as a business consultant
to emerging brands and have been self-employed since I was 24. One of the first things I do with clients is to create a mission statement that succinctly states what they do and who they serve. This statement serves as a clarifying agent for the many difficult decisions most businesses face about when and how to grow.
I propose the only mission for public lands be the health and wellbeing of its citizens. Once profit is removed from the lens of decision-making, it’s easy to see how important it is to restrict a few players from using the lands for their businesses or have tours that trample flora and fauna so that the park can exist at all.
I have a huge respect for entrepreneurship. It’s a challenge of grit, perseverance and intellect. One that I navigate most days. I’ve seen clearly that it has no business being part of spaces we need to be a healthy society. Some things are worth paying for and protecting for no other reason than the immense good they provide.
Thank you for reading and being a part of this newsletter. Please take the time to read the links below. Weight, public lands, urban planning, nutrition, policy, self-help, life satisfaction, relationships; it’s all connected.