Will we still need National Parks?

Yesterday I wrote about museums¹, and this morning a friend in a group chat was asking about National Parks: if we reinvented society to be democratic, non-hierarchical, and ecologically-motivated, would we still have something like a National Park System?

I think the short answer is “no”.

I love parks, and short hikes have done a lot to keep me sane during the pandemic. However, the foundational myth of the National Park System is that parks represent “wild, untouched, land”, which is untrue. Many parks were built on land that was inhabited by indigenous American people, who were forcibly removed as part of the creation of the parks².

Not only is it important to come to terms with this history of ethnic cleansing, it’s worth rejecting the dichotomy between land that is “wild and natural” vs. “industrialized and tamed”. I‘m moved by the Out of the Woods Collective’s call for a “cyborg Earth”³:

One that rejects the colonial, heteropatriarchal values of bounty, purity and fragility, and poses instead the possibility of liberated life.

Nature isn’t here for humans to control _or_ protect; we _are_ nature.

The beautiful land on which our parks are built is beautiful in no small part due to the stewardship of the indigenous people who lived on and _within_ it. A cyborg agroecology would blur the line between “forest” and “farm”, allowing us to create a food system that is more robust to climate change and simultaneously restore most of the land around us to the pre-colonized beauty that is currently only available in parks.

¹ Museums
² This Land Is Their Land
³ Lies of the land: against and beyond Paul Kingsnorth’s völkisch environmentalism