Today (August 25, 2016) is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. To commemorate this anniversary, I decided to bring you another historic photo painstakingly colorized by Brazilian artist Marina Amaral. Here are President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and legendary naturalist John Muir, photographed at Glacier Point, in Yosemite, in 1903. This has long been an iconic photo symbolizing Roosevelt’s commitment to conservation–though admittedly he had an odd way of showing it at times–however, I have never seen this picture in color before. Marina Amaral, whose work I brought you earlier here and here, has once again brought history vividly to life with her digital palette.
The national parks have been described as “America’s best idea” and Roosevelt was their champion. At the beginning of the 20th century, Roosevelt, a Republican, was the first President to make environmental protection a significant policy goal. Since 1916 millions of people have visited and loved national parks all over America, appreciating beauty, history and ecology. John Muir’s writings in the late 19th century helped bring an awareness of the environment closer to the American mainstream. We’ve come a long way since the classic conservationists of the early 1900s, but the basic idea of national parks endures.
Unfortunately, these treasures of our country are under threat from two angles. Climate change is altering the landscapes of numerous national parks (and many other places). The various disruptions to natural cycles and ecosystems caused by global warming have a continuing ripple effect that may destroy the beauty of these parks. Secondly, the Republican Party–once the party of Teddy Roosevelt–has decided it has nothing but contempt for his ideas. The 2016 Republican Party platform, adopted in Cleveland last month, explicitly calls for the abolition of all of America’s public national parks. It’s hard to imagine a more wrong-headed, short-sighted and ridiculous policy proposal, but there it is. Perhaps we need to be constantly reminded that we must never take national parks for granted.