It may be of no surprised to avid Twenty Something Living readers that I am a passionate social equity and environmental justice advocate…and that I am a huge Leslie Knope-Wannabe. With my previous posts for Twenty Something Living centering around my summer volunteering in Utah, the environmentally-conscious lifestyle I adopted and promoted while Wwoofing, and my experience hiking and camping in Glacier National Park, it should be no surprise that this post focuses on a similar notion. But, I write about what I’m passionate about and find great meaning and impact in sharing that with others.
In the environmental justice and eco-friendly vein, I think it’s imperative for us as active, productive, and helpful citizens and members of a greater society, to not only learn to respect and protect our environment but also to learn to appreciate and honor it. It amazes me how much of the country I still have left to see and it leaves me feeling curious and antsy. Because I have a full-time job that requires me to stay put throughout the week and devote a couple hours on weekends, abandoning all responsibilities and traversing across the nation is a somewhat thwarted task. I am however, intentional about carving out time during my vacations and chunks of free time to affordably travel, volunteer, and see new parts of the country I live in. Although I am deliberate in my plans to travel, those big trips don’t happen very often and I’m left trying to quench my insatiable curiosity and desire to travel and see new things. I’ve always had an overwhelming spirit of adventure and a strong eagerness to improve the world around me and this ubiquitous mentality is what leads me to discover new places, experiences, and sights – no matter what state I find myself in.
State and Nationally recognized parks are one of the ways I’ve been able to see more of my country, become acclimated with the new state I’m residing in, appreciate my country’s diverse landscape more, and learn about the great value in environmental conservation, consideration, and the people involved with maintaining our country’s natural beauty. Since moving to Northeast Arkansas a year ago, I have been to every state park in my region and within 2.5 hours of me in every direction. Because much of rural Arkansas is spread out, driving is essentially necessary to get anywhere which has surprisingly worked in my favor (minus the whole paying for gas situation…which really weights on your wallet) in the sense that as I drove, I would take note of the brown road signs indicating national and state parks, monuments, and sites.
Visiting the various state parks in my area of Arkansas throughout my year or so here has helped me better connect to this new state that I call home. Since I was born, raised, and spent the majority of my life in New England, adjusting to a new national culture was somewhat challenging but allowed for many new discoveries, experiences, and lessons learned. And as simple as it may sound, many of those new discoveries, experiences, and lessons learned came from my local adventures to state and national parks in and around Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I visited towns I would have never even known existed if it weren’t for their local Parks & Recreation Department and state parks.
Although it may seem small, supporting my local state and national parks is one way I have been able to promote environmental awareness and the necessity of its advocacy and protection. Understanding and appreciating your local environment is often the first small step in learning how to protect, sustain, and advocate for it. From Craighead Forest Park to Millwood Lake State Park, I have made it a point to familiarize myself with a new part of the country and admire it, no matter how different it may be from my original home.
Through the connections I’ve made to different areas of Arkansas’ natural environment, I feel more invested in taking care of this part of the planet and better understand the individual role I can play in assisting the environment and communities around me. After all, we only get one planet so we need to do our best to not make it worse for the generations following us. Although visiting your local state and national parks is one way to become acquainted with and connected to your environment, the experience is what you make it. Think of your support of our country’s state and national parks as a small ripple in a much bigger pond. The more you support, raise awareness, and advocate for the conservation, protection, and improvement of our local and national environments, the more change and betterment can eventually happen. Even if it’s just one state park at a time.
So be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do. Make the world and its environment better everyday even if it’s just by taking small steps and calls to action. We need more Leslie Knopes in the world and we need more people who genuinely care about taking care of each other, our planet, our environment, and our shared humanity – across the globe.