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National Park environmental education

Why every country needs a Grand Canyon

Many of the visitors who come initially to wonder at "the Big Ditch" can also learn about the fragility of it. The Park's interpretive rangers are encouraged to address environmental and Park issues in the daily free ranger programs. Visitors can join any of these walks and talks which aim to enhance the visitors appreciation of the Park and introduce them to the challenges which it faces. Visitors are introduced to a range of environmental issues which they may not have thought impinged on their lives, including pressure on natural resources, disruption of wildlife, and the speed of species extinction.

On the geology walk they can learn that the earth is 4,500 million years old, but compressed into a one year time scale, the Canyon formed about lunch time on December 31, and the industrial society which affects it came into being two seconds before the end of the year. It highlights the rapid impact that the first species on Earth that can change its environment has had on the planet. Visitors who thought the Canyon was just an awesome hole in the ground have the opportunity to realise that, huge though it is, it is very much affected by man's activities. Carefully presented programs educate them without realising they're being educated and turn them into "friends" of the Park and ensures they will take an interest when they hear of threats to it. There has been talk in Congress of reducing the Park Service budget. this could mean the end of interpretive programs for visitors. They would come, look, photograph and return home having learnt little of why it is so special, but more importantly what it can teach us about the interconnectedness of man and natural systems.

It is not enough to admire scenery, one has to be able to learn from it. Because with understanding and appreciation comes concern. And the moral? That anywhere in the world, beauty alone is not enough; it is essential to explain that beauty and draw out the lessons it shows us. Specialness can be eroded away if no-one realises it is special. Environmental education becomes an essential aid to survival. Every country needs a Grand Canyon.

This is just one of the stories from my Grand Canyon National Park talk

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