I was reminded this weekend, whilst walking through town, about the magic of staying open. Two strangers openly greeted me with big smiles, and I am ashamed to say I was consciously taken aback. But once I acknowledged it was me they were smiling at, I responded by grinning with appreciation at them (possibly scaring them, apols about that!).
See, after I moved here, I often found myself talking (or rather, trying to talk) to strangers in the street, or at bus stops, or as I queued to pay for groceries. Despite my best efforts, the funny looks I often received in return took their toll, as I assumed they were a negative reaction towards my behavior. This eventually led to me becoming more shy and reserved, and less likely to try to connect with those I met.
In the environmental world, it’s characterized as the classic battle: Should wild areas be preserved for their intrinsic qualities or conserved for their resources? In other words, should nature be used for “the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the longest time,” as nineteenth-century progressive environmentalist Gifford Pinchot put it; or should the wilderness be protected and revered without human intrusions, a view espoused by romantic environmentalist John Muir?
Today, with a burgeoning population encroaching on our remaining wild areas and economic help scarce, many would say that Pinchot’s beliefs are more realistic for the modern world. In fact, there are even those, such as Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist, who would take Pinchot’s notion a step further: Natural areas must be managed to benefit humans, if they are to survive at all.
My main goal at 12 years of age was to own a pair of plastic mouse ears, a salute to Mickey Mouse. Of course, this would require a vacation to Disney World, something every kid in my neighborhood had achieved. Getting there was possible … but sure looked unlikely. My parents, you see, saw no point in traveling to a fantasy world when the real world was so fantastical. I never did acquire that mouse-ear crown.