Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Ken Burn's The National Parks

The National Parks, America’s Best Idea a film by Ken Burns is a six part series running over 12 hours on how America started the creation of national parks in 1872 chronicling the events up to 1980.

It presents the political, spiritual, commercial, geological and historical dimensions on how the first set of the 58 National Parks (Yellowstone as the 1st National Park created by US President Ulysses Grant in 1 March 1872) and Monuments were institutionalized in the US. 

How a national park is declared is presented with facts that included lobbying in the senate by the advocates and oppositions mounted by miners, railroad builders, ranchers to protect their own interests. Always, the principle of preserving God’s creation for the greater good for the present and the next and future generations is invoked to move its passage.

Other than the commercial part (influx of tourists via train and Buick automobiles), the film is relevant to us particularly on how we have given importance to the value of a park, the preservation of wildlife and the will to sustain the drive. Of interest to us mountaineers are the messages of naturalist John Muir famous for his quotation among others The Freedom of the Mountaineer from Episode Two. The line "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees," the personal transcendental experiences of writers and historians and those who have seen the wonder of the natural creation are featured in the "Leave it as it is. A revelation to a non-American is the role US President Theodore Roosevelt who is physically challenged and a taxidermist collecting stuffed specimens played in championing the cause of the parks.

William Cronan, historian narrates what John Muir meant in “transforming by his unconditional surrender to nature and in surrendering in everything that is wild.” as Episode One ends.

Wildness is an essential part of ourselves that our ordinary lives tempt us to forget. By losing touch with the essential part of ourselves, we risk losing our souls and for him going out into nature to these parks is how we recover ourselves, remember who we truly are and reconnect with our core roots or our own identity, of our own spirituality that is sacred in our existence.

The tendency nowadays to wander in wildness is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken over civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home, that wildness is a necessity, and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as factories of timber and irrigating rivers but as fountains of life.

National Park personifying in film the forest ranger as the absolute source of information about the park gives him the adulation deserving for what he does.

Who is the forest ranger? Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service in 1916 wanted more national parks within reach of more people and wanted them promoted as one cohesive system. Working with his assistant Horace Albright, other than marketing the parks and allowing the entry of vehicles, he created a new image of the park ranger. Mather wanted a cadre of dedicated and professional park rangers.“They should be "men between the ages of 21 and 40," Albright specified, "of good character, sound physique, and tactful in handling people."They also had to be able to ride horses, build trails, fight forest fires, handle firearms, have survival experience in extreme weather conditions, and be willing to work long hours with no overtime pay. From a salary of $1,000 a year, they were expected to buy their own food and bedding – and to pay $45 for a specially designed uniform topped by a distinctive flat-brimmed hat.” -Lifted from Episode Four

The pinoy mountaineer can identify with all of the forest ranger attributes except for the horse riding and the brimmed hat.

Value of national park is immortalized in the poem "West Running Brook" written by Robert Frost and paraphrased by writer Dayton Duncan as “It is for that that we spring it’s going back toward the source, the beginning of beginnings.  And the national parks are part of that, that sparkle in the water. Life pushes us forward. Our society moves forward in a great rush. But the parks are the place that throws us back a little bit. That makes us pause, makes us reflect and points us back to the source to the beginning of beginnings. And that is their value. And that is their beauty.”-Lifted from Episode Two

National Parks in blu ray format is available for viewing with friends here in Manila, if that is what it takes to snowball a movement to be advocates of our own Philippine parks.

No comments:

Post a Comment