The Country’s Oldest

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Known (at least to rock climbers, which I would describe myself as in an instant) for the namesake valley that houses Half Dome, El Cap and many other granite features, Yosemite has much more to offer than most know. The National Park is made up of 1,169 square miles of forest and is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Central California. The majority of the park is designated wilderness, which protects the landscape permanently. In addition, it was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984. Yosemite is home to many different flora and fauna, and boasts many different landscapes, ranging from chaparral to alpine.

Yosemite National Park was created in 1890 as the first National Park. John Muir was one of the main influences in the creation of the park. Muir was a Scottish naturalist and conservationist. He worked to convince Teddy Roosevelt to create the National Park Service and in 1906, Yosemite National Park came under federal government control. Not only was Muir vital to the creation of Yosemite National Park, he was also instrumental in the creation of the Sierra Club, one of the worlds largest nonprofit environmental organizations. The Sierra Club advocates the preservation of public lands and many other environmental issues. The Sierra Club was an important supporter for the creation of Yosemite National Park.

One of the most important issues surrounding Yosemite today is access. As one of the most visited national parks in the United States, the mass amounts of visitors impact the landscape and wildlife. Light and sound pollution affect the natural sounds from the water flow and wildlife. The light pollution that comes from Yosemite village, cars and campsites throughout the valley can affect nocturnal animals and the view of the night sky. In addition, the sheer number of visitors takes a toll of the landscape and increase erosion. Invasive species, which can take over an ecosystem completely, are a threat to Yosemite’s ecosystems and with the multitude of visitors are very common. The most visited part of the park is the valley where many visitors come for the day and stop to see the major sights and then leave. The park is very accessible to the public, which also makes it less appealing to those who want to enjoy the solidarity and silence of nature.

One of the most recent news stories surrounding Yosemite is the accession of the Dawn Wall. Two professional rock climbers, Kevin Jorgensen and Tommy Caldwell, made the first free ascent (only using one’s hands and feet to climb, without the aid of gear) of what could be deemed the hardest rock climb in the world. The Dawn Wall located on Yosemite’s El Capitan that stands at about 3,000 feet.

Photo: Brett Lowell/Big Up Productions

This story brought awareness not only to the sport of rock climbing, but also to the Yosemite itself. People were able to watch a live feed of the climbers while they made their nineteen-day ascent. This is a reminder of the beauty and grandeur of nature and also a note on the progress that society has made—only 40 years ago no one even considered the possibility of El Capitan being free climbed due to the size and difficulty.

John Muir described Yosemite as “[…] by far the grandest of all special temples of nature [he] was ever permitted to enter.” And from the pictures of seen and the research I have done, Yosemite is definitely at the top of my list of places to visit.

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Not Just the Rainforest

Let’s face it. We’ve all heard, read or been told about the Amazon. Whether it is the deforestation, biodiversity or the sheer beauty, there’s always something that is currently talked about in the media.

Map courtesy of Mongobay.com

The Amazon, known more correctly as the Amazon River Basin, covers over forty percent of the South American continent and is located in nine different countries. Mostly known for the rainforest, the Amazon also has savannas, seasonal forests and deciduous forests. The Amazon is one of the most biodiverse places on earth; it is home to about 2.5 million species (including indigenous peoples)—some found only in the Amazon. It is known to house the largest collection of living flora and fauna and more are still undiscovered.

Deforestation is one of the main issues surrounding the Amazon. Over the past 40 years, more than 232,000 square miles of forest have been lost, though the highest rate of deforestation occurred during the nineties and early-2000’s. Industrial logging, pastures for cattle and large-scale farming have contributed to most of this loss. Many acres of what used to be rainforest have been converted to what is considered to be the most economically beneficial use. Though the rainforest has many important uses as en ecosystem, it could be sustainably harvested for fruits, timber and latex without having to be torn down. This idea for sustainable harvesting would also help to prevent the loss of one of the rainforest’s most beneficial jobs—greenhouse gas consumption. Because of the sheer size of the amazon, it is one of the largest consumers of greenhouse gas. Though deforestation could affect the rate of consumption and affect the future of climate change. Deforestation is an important subject concerning the Amazon.

Tim Philips discusses another significant issue for The Guardian UK; he reports that the president of Brazil has passed a law that could give squatters in the Amazon rights to the land that they occupy. Though this will benefit many landless Brazilians, it will also harm the environment. Some environmentalists have named it the “land-gabbers bill” because it will “offer a carte blanche for those wanting to make money by destroying the Amazon.” Provisional Measure 458 essentially encourages deforestation; once an owner has possession of the land he or she can do whatever with it. Though some parts of the bill did not pass originally, the majority of the bill did pass. It is effectively open access, with little incentive to protect the landscape or use it in a sensible manner.

The protection and conservation of the Amazon is not only vital for the protection of the diverse species that call it home, but also for the protection for future generations. One organization that has helped to protect the amazon is ACT (Amazon Conservation Team), they have helped to connect the indigenous people to protected areas and map a significant portion of the Amazon. Though deforestation has slowed in the past decade, it is still a serious topic for discussion. The conservation of this ecosystem is vital for the issue of climate change and the protection of the Amazon’s biodiversity.