This past weekend, I went to one of my favourite places on the planet: Algonquin Park. It was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and as my family and I hiked alongside beautiful lakes and trees I certainly felt like I had a lot to be thankful for.
Whenever I visit Algonquin, I am curious about the effects of human impact on the park. On a previous camping trip (which I detailed in this blog post) I wrote about how, upon minutes of arriving at our campsite, a chipmunk came right up to us to investigate our granola bar wrappers – and later ran away with the plastic knife we had been using for peanut butter. The animals of Algonquin must be used to human visitors, and I’m sure their lives (and especially their eating habits) are different than that of other animals because of this.
I didn’t see any wildlife when I hiked in Algonquin this past weekend, so I couldn’t judge the impact of human visitors to the park in that way. Still, I saw some litter on the trails. It wasn’t a significant amount; but then again, I suppose any amount of garbage in nature is significant. This led me to further question the equality of what I previously called “the partnership between humans and nature” in the park. It also reminded me of a dilemma I posed in my other post about Algonquin.
“If Algonquin Park existed, but didn’t allow visitors, no one would be able to appreciate the beauty of seeing the trees reflections in the water, or seeing a mother Loon swim with her baby. On the other hand, its beauty would be preserved forever if humans did not visit.”
The trees in Algonquin will change colours, even if there are no humans there to witness them (if a tree falls, however, that might be a different story). In other words, nature will run its course – it doesn’t depend on having humans admire its beauty to do so. That’s scientifically speaking, though, because in a way nature does require us to witness its beauty.
I have always known that it is important to protect the environment, but I feel especially strongly about this after my recent visit to Algonquin Park. It’s like putting a face to a name. Being environmentally conscious for the sake of being environmentally conscious is one thing; but doing it because you feel a personal connection to nature, because you’ve hiked through nature’s forests and canoed through its lakes and marvelled at it’s wonders, is entirely different (not to mention better).
There is no question that humans have a negative impact on the environment; but I can’t help thinking that without visiting Algonquin to see it’s beauty firsthand, protecting the environment wouldn’t matter as much to me. Being able to see the trees changing colour, and the still, pristine lakes, helped me to grasp the true importance of protecting and saving the environment.
I believe that if everyone in the world was able to witness the beauty of such a place with their own eyes and feel a strong connection to it more people would advocate for protecting the environment.
In my previous post about Algonquin Park, I wrote, “Humans may inhabit the Earth, but it is not ours to destroy.” I would like to add on to that thought. The Earth is not ours to destroy, but it is ours to appreciate. And perhaps a deeper appreciation will lead to less destroying.