I don’t want to protect Michigan’s environment because of political leanings. The part of my brain that wants to protect the Sleeping Bear Dunes doesn’t particularly care whether our nation’s next president is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, or whether taxes should be raised or lowered. Of course, decisions of that kind are sometimes relevant to the prospects for vital environmental protections, and it is fair and important for conservationists to understand any connections that truly exist. Still, the heart of my desire to protect Michigan’s unduplicated natural beauty cannot exist within the political realm. In fact, it can’t exist in any realm of inherent conflict.
Think about this: each of us spends a near entirety of our moments in some realm of conflict. Take an hour to walk through a city. Surely, there will be beauty. There will be seemingly impossible feats of engineering. But there will also be conflict. Lots of it. Even our greatest developments don’t quite know how to exist naturally in nature. The same goes for our brains. Moments of solitude or reverence are all too rare.
Michigan’s protected nature areas provide an escape from all of the conflict. A liberation. I can walk through Nichols Arboretum by my home in Ann Arbor and observe life in harmony. I could plan a weekend (or, if I was lucky, a week-long) trip through Michigan and experience a vast array of natural beauty that is simultaneously halcyon and exhilarating. During such a trip, I could witness as much natural beauty as any person could at any location in the world.
I know this to be true. Having recently visited Northern Michigan with a group of friends from Brazil, Austria, Germany, and Colombia, I was not surprised to see on Facebook photos of the area numerous comments in Portuguese, German, and Spanish. And although the languages varied, the messages from all over the world were strikingly consistent: I WANT TO GO THERE.
It’s shocking and sad that our legislators cannot see what people from around the world perceive so clearly. Michigan’s natural beauty is world-class. In a time of immense struggle for many parts of our state, areas like Sleeping Bear Dunes, Tahquamenon Falls, and Mackinac Island serve as a sort of fall-back. These places, along with various state parks, inland lakes, beaches, and nature areas, have always been there for us. They provide an escape for Michiganders, and serve as much-needed tourist attractions. The world wants to see Michigan.
This is why I love my state. Why we all love Michigan. This is why we should join hands across the political aisle in hopes of preserving natural beauty so stunning that it transcends any political barriers. Our legislators apparently don’t understand this. In the past week alone, our state representatives have passed multiple bills eroding protections on sand dunes and placing harmful limits on nature areas. So we should ask ourselves one question: if our “representatives” don’t value our state’s most precious resources, why should we let them represent us?