Parks, America, and Reading

It’s Thursday! Not Friday. Go to work tomorrow. When you don’t have to work, though, you can go outdoors! Because July is Park and Recreation month. So. If you’re not working, and it is nice outside, go outside. Weekend, planned. Just for you.

National parks are a great place to go outdoors. The National Parks Conservation Association is taking care to recognize people who identify as LGBT+ by doing more to preserve historical locations important to the legacy of LGBT+ life in the United States. More national parks, more important history preserved, lives validated. Recognized.

Mostly white people visit national parks. Fact. As of 2011, “only 7 percent of visitors to the parks system were black.” It hasn’t always been this way. The Boston Globe interviews geographer Carolyn Finney, who is recapturing the role of African-Americans in the history of the national parks system and the environmentalist movement.

Going outdoors isn’t the only way to interact with the outdoors! Oh no. We have the Internet. Which means we have webcams. Which means we have livestreams of animal habitats!

We can watch bear cams. Watch bears killing fish. Killing other bears, or witness the evidence of bear-killing unseen.

We can watch eagle cams! Watch eagles accidentally step on their babies. Demand that the poor runt who looks like it will die be rescued and helped! It dies anyway. Nature is cruel. Webcams make the cruelty of nature more visible.

(Those are not links to the webcams. Those are links to articles about the webcams that may or may not also include links to the webcams. By which I mean that they most certainly do. Feast your eyes upon the depravity and beauty of nature. Try not to get emotionally involved.)

If you do get emotionally involved, go to a zoo. Stare at the animals. Wonder how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, why they do what they do. Make a career out of it. Tear up at the sight of black panthers in despair. Contemplate becoming a vegetarian, and wonder if you’d manage to eat enough protein or food without meat. Remember that barbecue exists.

Think about fish. Think about where fish come from. Realize that America controls the most ocean of any other nation. Think about how astonishing that is. Recognize that the United States imports the majority of its fish and seafood from other countries. The United States is still catching fish. One third of that fish and seafood is exported. Realize that globalization has “radically disconnected us from our seafood supply.”Cry into your imported scallops. Dream of real, American scallops.

Realize that America isn’t the best at everything. Such as education. Realize that Europe, especially Scandinavia, has education pretty well figured out. Go to Finland. Teach. Push your fifth-graders to work several hours in a row. Make them miserable. Realize that a 15 minute break makes them excited to learn! Wonder why America doesn’t do the same in their schools. Wonder why America doesn’t do the same in their offices. Go to the bathroom on a different floor. Pretend that detour is adult recess. Your imagination is not vibrant enough to turn stall doors into monkey bars. The toilet is not a swing. Look at your phone instead.

Maybe you’re not American. Maybe you’re Australian, teaching undergraduate students in the United States. Be confused by how dependent your students are on you, how much they value grades. Learn how to talk slower so they can understand your accent. Teach world history. Attempt to craft a mindset that does not include America as the center of said world. Use lots of maps to remind them of this. Become a better teacher.

Teach people what it means to care about reading. Support indie bookstores, but don’t antagonize people who buy books on Amazon. Instead, be thankful that you live in a town with an indie bookstore, because not everybody does. Realize you are in a privileged minority.

Teach people what it means to care about reading. Tell someone to read the Great Gatsby, because Jay Gatsby is a gangster. Reframe stories in a way that your readers can relate to. Become a better librarian.

Teach people what it means to care about reading. Don’t judge the number of books that they have read. Be grateful that they have read. Recognize that all reading is good reading.

Turn every link into a giflink. Listen to the oldies station on the radio. Call your significant other. Thank them, just like Sam and Dave tell you to.  Make it to Friday.