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Archive for the ‘Grassroots Activism’ Category

“We’ve not had very many visitors to the Grand Staircase Monument, and those who have come look at it, and kind of look around and say, “This is a national monument? Wait a minute. Why is this designated as something particularly special?” because, quite frankly, it’s not. It’s not the kind of thing that visitors to America, or visitors from other parts of America
coming to Utah, expect to see in either a national monument or a national park.”

This quote comes from Utah’s Senator, Robert Bennett. It is part of a new John Howe documentary on Utah wilderness  (Wilderness: The Great Debate: February 3, KUED, 7 p.m.).  I spent a lot of time working in the towns at the edge of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and was hiking there in a wild canyon on the day President Clinton made the declaration. I swear I felt something change, once this amazing landscape had permanent protection. Senator Bennett is currently involved in engineering a number of rural county wilderness processes, and this is yet another indication that this guy is the wrong guy to be in charge of something as important as this.

Perhaps it’s my age, but I didn’t throw anything or swear when I read the Senator’s comments. It could have been that this is no surprise from this man who seems to speak an entirely different language when he talks about what parts of this amazing state are worthy of protection. Or it could be that I’ve been doing some research on tourism, reading some interesting papers about motivation which have made me think that the same place can be the site of a full spectrum of different experiences.

According to a 2007 survey by the Travel Industry Association, 25% of people planning on taking a trip are interested in a ‘spiritual’ experience….something that adds meaning to their lives. I know I’m taking a risk here, suggesting that time spent in the wilds is somehow “spiritual”, but I don’t care because I believe that it is.

While looking for information on this phenomenon I found a reference to a paper written by Alex Norman, a graduate student at the University of Sydney (Australia). In it he mentioned “the plane of meaning” in tourist experience, with ‘recreation’ is at one end of that plane, and ‘pilgrimage’ at the other. I contacted him because that idea fascinated me. I asked him about intention, and how what we desire or expect from our travels determines where, along that plane of meaning our experience falls. (In the back of my mind was the difference between how Senator Bennett and I feel about the Grand Staircase). Norman told me that “the awe, natural grandeur, and the sense of the numinous that wild places can provoke in people can be a real and legitimate tool for creating meaning, psychological healing, and of course, a refreshing change from the city.”  How has Senator Bennett missed this? Perhaps he doesn’t look for meaning in wild places. Perhaps he doesn’t believe that meaning in possible in wild places. Or perhaps, he’s just not all that interested in meaning because he already has some of that. (more…)

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Last weekend, over the course of three days, I facilitated the creation of a mural at Club Red Afterschool Program in Moab.We had Thursday and Friday afternoons with the kids, who were mostly high school age (12-18). Participation is optional, so I was warned that getting them to do much of anything would be difficult- Lots of texting and such.

Moab student posing in front of mural

On Thursday afternoon, after some coaxing and bribes of pizza for later, eight or so students sat around a butcher paper covered table and doodled with markers. The instructions were: “Draw from your imagination”. The conversation that was going on during the drawing helped to determine the objects drawn. There was a lot of self-doubt about the ability to draw well/realistically. I had to really convince them away from such self-consciousness and tried to model drawings that were obviously not realistic. The conversation that was going on during the drawing helped to determine the objects drawn. (more…)

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for a downloadable pdf of this page, click here

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