National parks are probably one of the best things ever invented. They preserve the best of our country’s landscape, preserve it for the wildlife and for future generations. Parks are places you can go, with no buildings, traffic or, if you wish, other people. They are places where we can save our past and protect our world from human activities.
If nothing else, they’re places we can go to be reminded of what life was like before cities and townhouses, power lines and taxi cabs. But they do more than that.
To Preserve Wildlife
With climate change and habitat destruction wreaking havoc on wildlife populations worldwide, preserving any land is becoming more important. National parks are a safe haven for threatened populations, or at least as safe as they can be. Parks in Africa are well-known for having aggressive tactics when it comes to poachers. Likewise, Yellowstone was able to successfully reintroduce a population of gray wolves after they had been wiped out by poaching.
Hope spots, which are basically national parks in the ocean, are also being created to help keep species alive and prevent overfishing. These areas are a safe place, and the wildlife there knows it. They come in huge numbers, and then you can see them in their natural habitat!
To Keep Our History Alive
Yellowstone National Park was the first national park that was ever designated as federally protected land. The artwork made by explorers who ventured through the land caught the attention of Congress, who then decided that the land would be owned, and protected, by the government. It was a pretty big watershed moment since none had been created before.
This area protects the land, and it also helps preserve the native artifacts that can be found there. Tours of national parks around the world talk about how the land formed, the native cultures and wildlife that lived there, and what you can do to help keep that history alive.
To Safeguard the Future
Kids need to know things viscerally. They don’t always understand abstract ideas, but they can definitely see something and appreciate its value. For that, national parks are vital in helping kids to understand the importance of biodiversity and conservation. It’s a great way to introduce kids to what our planet can be, the potential it has and the awesome power it holds.
Of course, it’s also important for the flora and fauna that’s there. Conserving species for the future doesn’t always seem like the most practical thing to do, but the other option is to not help, not set aside land and to not do anything. And that’s simply not in our nature.
To Experience Joy
Getting out into nature has been shown to help lower stress levels. National parks are some of the largest areas of uninterrupted nature we have available. This can be a break from the daily routine and can help to reset your brain. While some people fall so in love with it they make it their life, most people can only manage short getaways.
For that, there is what’s called the three-day effect. In the simplest terms, it’s the idea that spending a full three days completely submerged in nature allows our brains to reset, recharge and go back to work feeling like new. You spend the first day thinking about all the things you need to do back in “real life,” on the second you really start to enjoy your surroundings and by the third day, your senses start to really tune in with nature.
The idea is that this immersion in nature, without cell phones or laptops, lets your prefrontal cortex reset and calm down. Instead of overheating all the time, you get to actually turn off. That break is just as important for your brain as it is for your computer. Probably more so!
Some of the best research in the world happens in national parks. Yellowstone, for example, is the only place certain strands of cyanobacteria can be found in the entire world. Meanwhile, the Redwood Forest in California has some of the oldest trees in the world, and the Grand Canyon is the only one of its kind. Scientists and scientists in training, who want to learn about biology, biodiversity and native flora need only to go to a national park to be overwhelmed with it.
Of course, hardcore scientists aren’t the only ones who learn from visiting the parks.
Laypersons who are simply invested in the planet can also learn a great deal. Most national parks offer guided tours for anyone who wants to take them. This is a good source of income for the park, but it’s also a great way to learn some amazing things about our planet. Everything from flora and fauna to mineral deposits and cultural history can be covered in a tour.
Whether you go to national parks, state parks or local playgrounds, having places where you can get back to nature is important. Green spaces, without the rules and pressures of daily life, can be a safe haven to escape from the stress. Saving those places is about more than ticket sales or having something pretty — it’s also a vital part of remembering what our nation is, and what it can be.