Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Value and Vigilance: Protected Lands

"When it comes not just to nature but to questions that concern humanity in general I think there should be no borders... " Rok Rozman, Slovenia.
Climbing in Bears Ears National Monument, Utah 

 Certain people we meet have the ability to challenge, inspire and shape our world view. Sometimes it just takes one sentence to suddenly trigger this deeper awareness. Are we listening?
"When it comes not just to nature but to questions that concern humanity in general I think there should be no borders... " Rok Rozman, Slovenia.
I listened to many individuals on my trip through the Balkans last month. History in not an abstract there. It is alive for them. The Ottoman Empire, Communism, World Wars, Yogoslav Wars, Bosnian Conflict. This region has been through more than most in terms of conquesting. There is a deeper awareness of shared value here that I have not experienced so directly before. 

A sense of pride over a tiny stream and an open sharing of what it means to keep it healthy. I know this awareness is alive and well throughout the globe, but so many of us have yet to open our eyes, experience what is there and what it means to lose it before we can know the value. Now we are about to lose much of it in the West... 

I came to the Balkans wanting to hear the human stories, the struggles. To listen to the rivers, to float on them, to climb above them. 

The people in Balkans' communities around rivers are united against political agendas and development interests that are working to quickly destroy their backyards for a quick return on investment. An investment that disregards the balance of nature and in many cases a sustainable future that is finally being realized after generations of war. They are organizing and asking for accountability of their governments through lawsuits. They are starting their own NGOs dedicated to protecting the environment. Communities are beginning to help others and share knowledge and resources against developers.

Value is something that transcends money. Value is having clean drinking water for you and 100,000 of your neighbors. Maybe we only know that value after months spent sleeping at the source with guns and grenades as happened in 1993 in Kruscica. 

This value is certainly understood by native cultures in the US as well. Being so transient, so nomadic, consumers, as most of us are in the so-called First World, how do we adopt and share this understanding?

I am hopeful that NGOs and companies are now stepping into the fray in the US over Utah's public lands. But it is the force of all of us that is needed to push back against shortsighted government and development. It is a universal struggle. Worth defending, worth protecting.

all images ©Bennett Barthelemy