The National Park Experience: Personal reflection on why our parks must be valued (Summer 2019-2020) – National Parks Association of Queensland

The National Park Experience: Personal reflection on why our parks must be valued (Summer 2019-2020)

Author: Kalam McTaggart, Member, National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ)

Photography: Kalam McTaggart

I personally value the natural environment, and for me, national parks are a way to both protect nature and experience it. One of my favourite parks is D’Aguilar: it’s close to home with plenty of engaging walks and camping opportunities. D’Aguilar’s relative proximity to Brisbane city serves to frame the
remainder of my remarks, as I wish to discuss the affective benefits of the natural environment generally, particularly from the standpoint of one who resides primarily in a built environment.

In the natural environment there is a somewhat paradoxical coupling of both immediacy and patience. The built environment, where I spend the majority of my time, is always forward thinking and is always exacting. The built environment is forever demanding, and relentlessly impatient. Indeed I find that the quicker something happens the less patient I am with it. Driving 10 km under the speed limit in traffic, waiting an unforeseen 20 seconds for a familiar
webpage to load, and countless other inconsequential moments which seem to invariably cause jaws to clench and nerves to fray.

Conversely, nature is totally patient and startlingly present. I have observed that while I, as a human, must consciously (and conscientiously) choose patience and to work for the mental shift required for immediacy of thought; such is not the case for the natural environment. The very fibre of being of the natural environment exists at its own pace and in its own sphere. Nature does not rush, for it does not consider time as a bounding force. Trees will grow because they exist to grow, water will babble through the stream at the pleasure of the rain, and predators will hunt because their life is the hunt.

The author enjoying a national park with

Thus, to me, nature resonates with the grace of acceptance. Even in trying times, such as drought and fire, the natural environment seems to accept the struggle of the moment as its present reality, and effortlessly continues forward dauntless in its purpose. The natural environment’s calm acceptance is balm to my beleaguered spirit. Oftentimes, it is only once I have made the effort to be amongst nature that I can fully comprehend both how worn down I was, and the startling contrast of the built and natural environments.

For me, the experience of immersion in the natural environment is multifaceted and holistic. However, consideration of one such facet in isolation may be illustrative of my personal experiences in nature. In Queensland it is difficult (though not impossible) to immerse yourself in the natural environment without being amongst trees. There is a majesty to trees that I would argue all people feel, though we all can struggle to articulate. A majesty which is more than trees imposing heights and endearing colours; a tree is alive. A tree towering before an observer represents years of patience, and years of acceptance. A tree plants its roots, a lucky seed which has found fertile ground and will likely never have the luxury of knowing any other location. With otherworldly calm and industry, the tree will set out to magnify its existence, its life consigned to a plane of constant growth and survival, which is at once frighteningly foreign and intimately familiar to human consideration. Through predators, weeds, fires, floods and droughts, a tree simply does its best to continue to survive. Eventually I may even find myself standing before such a tree, considering its life in an ironically short period of time as I continue in my bushwalk; nevertheless, I am a grateful recipient of a measure of its calm life.

There are so many incredibly valid, persuasive and logical arguments for the importance of national parks. However, for me, there is also affective, emotive and non-rational arguments which are equally as valid. In the continual push for advocacy of the natural environment, I would add my conviction for the immeasurable, and sometimes unquantifiable, value of national parks, and for those who are like me, and can easily forget how personal said value can be, I would commend a visit with nature.

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