National Parks and the Common Good

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Millennial writer Meghan Clark has a new article at US Catholic. She writes:

Created in 1916, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday this year. With its 58 parks and hundreds of national historic sites, the National Park Service protects and curates natural spaces and the many stories of America. In 1934 President Franklin Roosevelt argued “there is nothing so American as our national parks.” These parks remind us “that the country belongs to the people” and that they are “for the enrichment of the lives of all of us,” he said in a radio address broadcasted from the heart of Glacier National Park in Montana. In these spaces, FDR hoped that we would see the public good and embrace our participation in the common good.

The parks have much to teach us. Nature reveals the interdependence of everything. Pope Francis has called the climate a common good, but, at their heart, national parks teach us about community and our relationship to nature. Acadia’s hiking trails were designed and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of FDR’s New Deal. The purpose was not just to provide paychecks but also to invest in the public good. As I climbed an 80-year-old granite staircase and scaled rocks aided by a walking stick borrowed from a fellow hiker, I saw the wisdom in FDR’s vision. These public spaces call us to be one community of diversity, beauty, and sometimes pain.

A cornerstone of Catholic social teaching, the common good often seems vague. In this polarized and intense election season, I look to the National Park Service to help refocus our attention on the common good.

The full article can be read here.