It is here on the Kaiparowits that I first walk alongside surface layer coal beds. It is here I realize that I have no excuse to not speak up for public lands. The Kaiparowits drives home for me what wilderness entails: existential clarity, unforgiving solitude and irrevocable experience. Development is just the same but on the flip side of the coin: unforgiving, irrevocable. Once development starts up there is no going back; once wilderness is lost, it’s lost for good.
There’s a funny thing or two about how natural treasure works.
Size matters. Three individual parcels of wilderness don’t carry the same value as a single area three times the size of one. Contiguous wild spaces are the most powerful form of preservation, for wildlife habitats and historic study just as well as for adventure and explorers.
Pure existence matters. We don’t have to actually be out there hiking and exploring; simple knowledge of wilderness’ existence changes our understanding of ourselves, our past and our future. We don’t have to constantly - or ever! - venture off into the wild to feel its value; simply knowing that it’s there, that we CAN get lost if we just wanted to, and that our children have that very option, changes our lives.
Do you remember the feeling you had when you got the keys to your first car: all a sudden, the possibilities are endless; you could drive over to your friend’s house, or even all the way across the country! Did you actually drive all the way across the country? Your answer doesn’t change the power of the notion.