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Some Silken Moments

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Ahhh, Ha! We have it, yes! Right where we left off – in my post from last week…you remember, right? We were talking about making things last, for generations to come. Namely, we were talking about preserving the outdoor natural environment(s) by teaching the next generation about the beauties of the outdoors. And readers were left with – the notion that there is some gap between preservation and conservation…

Yes, indeed, eh? And weren’t there like, some characters involved in a bit of a row, way back when – about this preservation vs. conservation debate?

Yes! John Muir, from the late 19th and early 20th Century – the founder of the Sierra Club. He got into a 10-year row with Gifford Pinchot, Stephen Mather, Congress, and the like – where Muir took the side of the preservationist, and fought to preserve the Hetch Hetchy Valley in California – ah yes, we’ve talked about this before…Muir lost that one – and died shortly thereafter – some say of a broken heart.

Wait, wait, wait! Tap the brakes baby…let’s get us a brief review…what is preservation? Well…

Preservation is advocating that iconic wilderness areas remain protected from the touch of humans – or, perhaps more precisely, as untouched as possible, by humans. This movement was the parent movement to other such movements as the “leave no trace” movement.

And then it only makes sense that we seek to know what conservation is too then, yeah? Well, of course. As we suggested last week, conservation is handling natural areas according to the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

At times, this may mean substantially altering the natural area, for the progress and advance of human endeavors…

Like an oil pipeline…

Or, perhaps to install a new city or town space of some sort…

Or, dare we mention it – a sports stadium…?…

Or, straight-up deforestation, for the profitability of the tree owners themselves…

Or, for any other such similar human progress…for the sake of progress, and for the good, of the most people…

Interestingly, preservationists are in a minority – and have often been depicted disparagingly in the mainstream media. But – it seems that preservationists have a good point – because the quandary keep coming up. Maybe this is because the preservationists won’t go away – pristine nature is just too compelling – and they keep bringing us face to face with the challenges of conservationism…

Or, maybe…

Because we have to figure out what we really want. And, we can’t forget about people. There has to be room for sustainable use by humans, eh?

Summarily – by and large, generally speaking, with only a few exceptions, the disposition of each new political regime in America over the past 100 years or so, has adhered rather pointedly – to a conservationist perspective.

Practically, and politically, this disposition is a no-brainer – and totally palatable. Politicians can hide behind a thin “green” veil, and carry on however they so desire…

But – is it possible that precious few politicians, and well, too few people are actually asking the right questions in this sort of debate?

Now, now – I’m not saying I have all the answers, but – when it comes to preservation vs. conservation, I think I might have one good question. Right here it is…

When do preservation and conservation intersect?

As an aside, this question is borne out of a years-ago conversation I had with a colleague of mine from West Virginia. As you may realize, West Virginia is one of many parts of the US that is replete with beautiful forests, woodlands, hills, mountains, rivers, wildlife, and much more natural beauty. Folks living in such areas are often also very familiar with the concept of conservation. For example, given that the two primary underpinnings of West Virginia’s economy are tourism travel and coal mining, notions of what to save and what to sacrifice seem especially at odds. So – let’s get back to this question: When do preservation and conservation intersect?

A knee-jerk response, often practiced by politicians and people generally, is that there is no intersect. Conservation has to rule the day – there is no other way!

But – you remember I’m a big fan of the reveal, yeah? Try this on for a reveal…

Preservation and conservation, as paradigmatic approaches to how we can best manage our natural resources, these two intersect where preservation IS conservation. When one considers the future, and includes generations to come in the notion of the greatest good for the greatest number – Should we not be seeking out the places and spaces, when preservation is conservation? For the children of our future…?

Let us not forget the generations who will come behind us. I submit that we would do well to strive to leave some silken moments of pristine nature for the generations to come. May we not – destroy, excessively, all the natural resources on the planet, for the sake of our own immediate comfort and progress, yes?

Sources: Center for outdoor ethics. (2016). Leave no trace. Available: https://lnt.org/. Retrieved 20, April,

By Dr. Rodney J. Blackman

Dr. Rodney J. Blackman is the Chair of Recreation Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at rblackman@ussa.edu.

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