I don’t want to protect Michigan’s environment because of political leanings. The part of me that wants to protect the Sleeping Bear Dunes doesn’t particularly care whether our nation’s next president is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or whether taxes should be raised or lowered. Of course, decisions of that kind are sometimes relevant for the prospects of vital environmental protections, and it’s important for conservationists to understand any connections that truly exist. Still, the heart of my desire to protect Michigan’s natural beauty cannot exist within the political realm. In fact, it can’t exist in any realm of inherent conflict.
Think about this: each of us spends a significant portion of our time in some realm of conflict. Take an hour to walk through a city. Surely, there will be beauty. There will be seemingly impossible feats of engineering. But there will also be conflict — lots of it. Even our greatest developments don’t quite know how to exist naturally in nature. The same goes for our brains. Moments of solitude or reverence are all too rare.
Michigan’s protected nature areas provide an escape from all of the conflict. I can walk through Nichols Arboretum by my home in Ann Arbor and observe life in harmony. I could plan a weekend — or, if I was lucky, a week-long — trip through Michigan and experience a vast array of natural beauty that is simultaneously halcyon and exhilarating. During such a trip, I could witness as much natural beauty as any person could at any location in the world.
Having recently visited northern Michigan with a group of friends from Brazil, Austria, Germany and Colombia, I was not surprised to see Facebook photos of the area receive numerous comments in Portuguese, German and Spanish. And though the languages varied, the messages from all over the world were strikingly consistent: I want to go there.
It’s shocking and sad that our legislators cannot see what people from around the world perceive so clearly. Michigan’s natural beauty is world-class. In the past month alone, our state representatives have passed multiple bills eroding protections on sand dunes and placing harmful limits on nature areas. In a time of immense struggle for many parts of our state, areas such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, Tahquamenon Falls and Mackinac Island serve as a sort of fallback. These places — along with various state parks, inland lakes, beaches and nature areas — have always been there for us. They provide an escape for Michiganders and serve as much-needed tourist attractions. The world wants to see Michigan.
This is why I love my state. This is why we all love Michigan. This is why we should join hands across the political aisle in hopes of preserving natural beauty so stunning it transcends all political barriers. Our legislators apparently don’t understand this. So we should ask ourselves one question: If our “representatives” don’t value our state’s most precious resources, why should we let them represent us?
Jeff Sorensen is an LSA senior.