The Campfire and Other Deeply Held Stories Illuminated

Ask people how the National Park system got started and they will probably tell you a story about Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir sitting together around a campfire under the skies of Yosemite, deciding it would be so.  The campfire story is concrete, relatable and resonates with a rugged independent spirit.  The visual of this great idea – starting as a glowing ember, growing into a whirling flame, the smoke rising toward the starlit sky above – is very appealing.  For the public hungry for a clear image and a quick soundbite, this is a good marketing piece. But that clandestine event took place decades after national parks had been in existence.  As the founding story, it is not true.

As evidenced in battlefields listed in the previous blog, people go to war over deeply held ideals with foundations in story.  These ideals are based on what we are taught.  They are held in value because of how they resonate within us.  Family identities, social structure and countries are built over generations based on these stories.  We like stories and they are important.

But what do we do when the stories (like this one) are not based on fact?  Can we continue to appreciate their sentiment and value while releasing judgement and allowing growth?

The founding mission of The National Park Service includes the unimpaired enjoyment of natural resources for this and future generations.  This creates a story about what our relationship with nature is supposed to be.  That mission has been shared for nearly 100 years in mass marketing campaigns and the story we have adopted around it as well.  We have been sold on the idea that we are entitled to unimpaired enjoyment in nature.  Our view-shed is never to change, and from the surface one might infer that our experience is to be largely recreational.

At this point, I will offer a reference for these stories, which can be found in The Spring Issue of Forest History Today.  The magazine takes a deep-dive, exploring how our ideas began and why they continue in popularity today.  I highly advise reading the full article and purchasing a subscription to the magazine.   Why? You can make your own mind up and gain a more rounded viewpoint.  References for the article have been cited as well, giving you the option to do a deeper dive if desired.

Now imagine the push-back that is created when the promise of unimpaired enjoyment is broken – in the case of logging, for example.  For a manufacturing facility that relies on forests and is dedicated to regenerative forest practices, no amount of scientific evidence offered seems to quench the blood thirst of those whose ideas might well be rooted in this doctrine.  Discount evidence that some companies do not look upon nature solely as a means for pleasure or to increase economic prowess.  Push past the writings and recordings that show how generations of people have been intimately tied to the land, much more deeply than that of mere recreational purposes.  Hold fast to the sole idea that nature is in the service of uninterrupted enjoyment.  OR start to question this and where our fervor is placed.  Take a look at a second article on The Trouble With Climate And National Parks for a deeper exploration.  The Bark House also appreciates anti-logging sentiment that relates to ecosystem degradation, threat to habitats or species, etc. and is scientifically based. Not all logging is good.  Not all logging is bad.  The issue is complex.  But being complex does not mean too large to engage with as  we have a responsibility to do so.  We welcome insights based on science, that informs whole-system initiatives including human consumption and capacity.

If you have read other Blogs in the EmBark series, you will see a deep appreciation of The Park Service, Forestry  –  Nature Lovers –  Environmentalists, Scientists – and Manufacturing.  You can see how relationships and actions can be complex in nature with both/and as compared to either/or positions.  You might even see that our own story has been enriched as we have questioned the history we have been told.  Indeed we are in the business of unimpaired enjoyment and ours also  appreciates the process of forest regeneration.

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