Our Land: Will We Be Left With Only a Memory of Beauty That We Might Have Protected?

American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams was a passionate advocate for national parks. Adams, who was best known for his striking black and white photographs of the West, died in 1984 at the age of 82. Although he spoke them 46 years ago, these words are eerily accurate today, as we stand on the threshold of global, irreversible, climate change thanks to our unsustainable way of living.

The American Pioneer approached the Natural Scene in a very different way than we must now. The land and its provisions were seemingly inexhaustible. The problems of existence were most severe. The Pioneer undoubtedly cherished his farm, his ranch, and his range – representing something almost infinite in extent and bounty – young, vibrant, ever-enduring. Now, as the blights of over-population, over-exploitation, and over-mechanization encroach from all directions, we come to love our land as we would love someone very near and dear who may soon depart, leaving naught but the recollection of a beauty which we might have protected and perpetuated. We must realize – and with desperate conviction – that it is truly later than we think.

~ Ansel Adams, Charter Day Address, University of California at Santa Cruz, 1965

0 thoughts on “Our Land: Will We Be Left With Only a Memory of Beauty That We Might Have Protected?”

  1. Ansel had some truly memorable photographs over the years. Perhaps some of the finest ever recorded. It seems almost uncanny that he would become a sort of environmentalist as a result of his photographic efforts.

    Here we are some 46 years later after his prophetic words were spoken, and we seemingly haven’t learned a single thing. Rather, we still appear to be hell-bent on wrecking anything and everything to do with our planet. We don’t seem to mind whether it is above ground – or below.

    Just think about the mess being created by what we are pulling from beneath our very feet.

  2. You’re right, Keith, it does seem that we are still on the same path that Ansel Adams critiqued. However, we are putting ourselves (humanity, that is) where we either make a dramatic shift in our understanding, and relating to, the world and ecosystem that sustains us and all life, or we will be the first species in the history of the earth to be responsible for their own extinction. And, to quote a wiser person than I, “I’m not optimistic but I’m hopeful”. While this may seem a contradiction in terms, I don’t want to rule out the possibility of something extraordinary coming out of the crisis we are facing. In the movie “Shakespeare in Love” Geoffrey Rush’s character always responds to an impossible situation the troupe is faced with by asserting, against all odds, that things will work out because “it’s a mystery”. That’s being hopeful despite the odds!


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