Our planet is in trouble. There is evidence piling up all around us, yet we still seek refuge in the convenience of not really knowing. And we all do this to some extent — seek the comfort of the bubble. But the ability to stay in our bubbles is shrinking. Drought conditions in the west are sucking away our water, while rising sea levels threaten coastal communities. Wildlife continue to lose their habitats, food sources, and the ability to survive. And we are pushing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at record levels. In many ways, it feels like our earth is on the precipice of collapse. The word collapse is enough to send us all back to the bubble, to hide out in the world of not really knowing. But our time here is short. And there is too much at stake. Right now, we need solutions — solutions for our earth and all the animals and the air and the water. And for us.
“Wilderness is the only thing worth saving.” I heard these words during an online discussion about Doug Peacock’s new book “Was it Worth It?” Since then, I have thought deeply about that statement, asking myself lots of questions, like, how do we measure the worth of a life or a place? What difference does 1.9 million acres of remote wild country make? And if we could save one thing on this earth, what would it be? These are big questions that require big answers. But given the fact that we, as a species, are in big trouble, I think that pondering these questions and seeking answers is something worth doing. And I hope that you agree.
Grand Staircase-Escalante is a solution. It is not the only one. Or a silver bullet to solve our climate change woes. But it is worth saving. It is worth saving for the connectivity of the landscape, its rugged wilderness, and its biodiversity. It is also worth saving for our own survival. I believe that we need to be able to experience the wild to preserve our humanity and our sanity. Our lives are being sucked into (and through) hand-held devices and screens. Meanwhile, at Grand Staircase, the spring is bubbling, and the raven’s call is echoing through the canyon. Small hooves and paws and nails are making fresh prints in soft sand. There is the scent of sage mixed with the earthy smell of soil thirstily receiving melting snow. And billions of stars blanket the night sky.
At Grand Staircase, nature remains the antidote to the lives we lead, offering solace and an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves and other creatures, the water, and the land.
We have so much to learn from the wild — from this rugged and remote landscape. From an intact record of the earth dating back millions of years. And from the Indigenous Peoples who have lived here from time immemorial. Sacred sites and dwellings and rock etchings that document family history are not ours to dismiss, deface, or degrade.
Saving these places is a small but essential step towards addressing a history of genocide and disrespect towards Indigenous Peoples. It is all connected. Saving the land and the water and the animals. Saving the history of the earth. Saving the places and plants that are sacred to Indigenous Peoples. It is all part of the solution.
Grand Staircase is calling to us. But we can’t answer that call from inside our personal bubbles. The Monument requires us to come together, to deepen our awareness and understanding of the land, not just from our own limited perspectives but also from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples, the original stewards of this land, to seek creative partnerships and design true solutions.
With this, I invite you to join us online March 3rd and 4th for a symposium on the Ways of Understanding and Protecting Land and Water Resources in the Grand Staircase-Escalante Region.
The goal of this symposium, co-sponsored by Southern Utah University and the Escalante River Watershed Partnership, is to bring together land managers, Tribes, researchers, conservation groups, and the interested public to gain knowledge and discuss multiple perspectives on land and water, ecosystem management issues, and ways people engage with the landscape. You can learn more about this event here. There is no registration required, and we will make the recordings of the presentation available after the event on our website. Also, if you are unable to attend all sessions, you can click on the webinar link at any time to view specific presenters.
My hope is that as our knowledge of the value of Grand Staircase deepens and expands, we will find the courage to live in the land of the knowing and that we will work together to do whatever it takes to save this wild place — understanding deep in our hearts, that it is worth it.