Friday Reading List: Nature For All, And Other Sometimes Sisyphean Goals

Happy Friday, poppets! We had an unexpectedly cool evening last night, which meant this Canadian finally got some sleep after the last few days of obnoxious heat in SF (and before you yell at me that it’s not that warm, may I direct you to my permanently-melted jar of coconut oil in my third-floor, AC-lacking apartment and ask you to kindly and preemptively STFU. With love, of course.) FYI the Missive will be off on Monday for Rosh Hashanah - a happy new year to those who celebrate! And you know what? Happy new year to those who don't cuz this year's gonna be hard and we need all the sweetness we can muster.


Kathryn Miles, Shenandoah National Park Is Confronting Its History (Outside) - The through line in Ken Burns’s The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is that the National Park system is a great outdoor equalizer and example of American exceptionalism. That “Only a democracy could have thought that land could have been set aside, not for the rich and nobility, but for everybody for all time.” And as a (white) person who enjoys the outdoors when furnished with enough sunscreen and bug spray, I take some kind of comfort in knowing that anyone, of any background, is able to drive on into Yosemite and say what’s up to Half Dome when they want to. But as is explored in this excellent piece shared by Friend of the Missive Schuyler, like any democratic institution, the National Park system embodies and perpetuates the biases and barriers of the times in which it operates. This has in the past—and present!—meant “separate but equal” segregation and compounding generational exclusion, whether that be through the creation of park areas for African Americans in the 1950s thereby inferring the rest of there park was only for white people, or the various economic barriers to entry we now have in place, from entry fees to lack of vacation days for minimum wage work. The fact that outdoor activities like hiking that seem to offer access to anyone have 70 percent white participation should give us pause, but the reality is that no one, especially those who embrace the outdoors as a part of their identities, wants to contemplate how institutional racism has contributed to their privilege to lace up those hiking boots and head up the trail. But we’d all be much better off to acknowledge it, address it, and do what we can and, like Shenandoah, “ameliorate many of the practices that excluded people of color from our wilderness spaces.” Because the joy and solace of these cathedrals of nature should be available for anyone and everyone who makes pilgrimage.

Zachary B. Wolf and Curt Merrill, The whistleblower complaint, annotated (CNN) - Nothing like a little light treason to get your weekend started. But as we sink into the impeachment muck, best to know the document that the President of the United States of America is screaming about on Twitter (sometimes I wonder if men are too emotional to hold the highest job in the land, it just seems like they can’t handle the pressure of the job without getting hysterical… that’s a joke, but you see what I did there, get off my lawn.)

Louise Matsakis, The Ringification of Suburban Life (WIRED) - What happens when every house in every neighborhood has its own street-facing networked 24/7 surveillance system “documenting facets of suburban existence that once went unnoticed” into clips that can then be spread across the world in under a second? A state of being that would make George Orwell pack up his Telescreen and move to the woods, that’s what.

Michael Garfield, Don’t “Optimize” Your Life (Medium) - I haven’t read this one yet, but FotM Tre sent this to me last night with a selection from the piece that read “We do not value “productivity” because it makes our days more meaningful. We value it because we’re running on a treadmill and that treadmill’s always speeding up.” And that hit me square in the “It Me.”

I hope you all have a restful weekend, and get outside if you can. Be kind to each other, mmmkay?

xoxo Amy