Though we don’t always realize it, our environmental agenda is powerfully shaped by particular places. The landscapes we idealize, those that become iconic in our culture, suggest certain guiding values and priorities.
In the United States, for the past century, we have been enamored of national parks, and they tell us that we need sublime wilderness in our lives, glorious scenery, charismatic megafauna. Travel to Yosemite, and you’re immediately seized with feelings of grandeur, expansion, uplift. But you’re also on vacation, removed from ordinary life and from problems like pollution and overconsumption. Our national parks are stunning, but they ultimately distract us from the need to remake our relationship to the natural world.