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