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What is the Future for National Parks

by Laurie Bereau

Upon gaining its independence in the late 18th century, the US strived to establish its distinctive features. Lacking in monuments and historic landmarks, the nation soon realized it could celebrate an invaluable asset: its wilderness. From the geysers of Yellowstone to the canyons of Utah and Nevada, the United States teemed with spectacular scenery preserved from man’s touch and whose magnificence could easily compete with European landmarks. The National Park idea was born to preserve the wilderness and ensure that future generations could experience and enjoy it. Still, vast reservoirs of natural resources were thus placed out of reach in the process, potentially hindering human progress.  In 1923, the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park was flooded after the construction of a dam meant to secure adequate water supply for the city of San Francisco. More recently, Britain has approved fracking under national parks.

Should the preservation of nature take precedence over human development?  Should we be uncompromising in the protection of nature?

In this activity you will examine several texts and videos, then write a composition of your own using the sources provided below.

Activity

  1. Read and understand the articles
  2. Watch and understand the videos
  3. Write a ONE-PAGE composition based on ONE of the following topics:
    1. An impartial but informative news article for your local newspaper
    2. An argumentative essay pursuing one aspect of the debate
    3. An analysis of the credibility and motivations of the articles and videos below

Articles

Questions to think about while reading the following articles:
  • Credibility: Is the author or publisher reputable?
  • Bias: Does the author or publisher exhibit a vested interest in their subject matter.
  • Balance: How well balanced is the article in the presentation of the arguments?.
  • Sources: Are the sources of information cited?

  1. Stanley Reed, "Britain pushes to revive fracking, possible under national parks" (December 2015, The New York Times)
  2. John Muir, "Preservation" excerpt from The Yosemite (1912)
  3. Gifford Pinchot, "Conservation" excerpt from The Fight for Conservation (1910)
  4. Linton Weeks, "Never-Ending Stories : Commerce Versus Conservation" (NPR, September 2013)
  5. Mary Catherine O’Connor, "Fracking is eating away at our national parks" (Outside, May 2013)

Videos

While you're watching the videos below, think about the following questions:

  • What is the goal each video is trying to achieve?
  • What are the scientific facts presented in the video?
  • Are the claims backed up with evidence? 
  • What is the level of neutrality in which the information is presented?

Benefits of Fracking

Fox Business (June 2012)

Protecting Gros Morne National Park

Global News

Other Activities

Open Discussion Questions

  1. Is fracking a good idea?
  2. Is fracking currently a safe enough process?
  3. Should energy independence be a priority for every country?
  4. Is fracking a first step towards a carbon-free future? Is the switch from coal to gas a first step towards saving the planet?
  5. Can alternative energy effectively replace fossil fuels?
  6. Is expanding nuclear energy a better solution than developing fracking?
  7. What is our legacy to future generations? When people look at the early 21st century in hindsight, what will our track record look like?
  8. Do we need more national parks and natural sanctuaries?
  9. Should access to national parks and other landmarks be restricted to avoid overcrowding and ensure actual enjoyment of the sites?

Download the questions in PDF

Mini Debate

With a partner or in a group divided into 2, conduct a debate adopting the two positions outlined below.  Once you have chosen your positions take some time to prepare your debate based on the materials presented above.

The state of California is holding a public meeting over the possible introduction of fracking under Yosemite National Park :

Position A 
You think that if conducted with great care, fracking will not damage national parks. In your opinion, the benefits of fracking outweigh the few nuisances that might ensue.

Position B
You believe that in order to preserve the common good, some tracts of land are to be preserved from any human commercial activity.

Download the Mini Debate in PDF

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