The debate rages on.
You might ask, “exactly which debate?”
The subject of sharing is quite broad.
Well, let me explain…
And don’t be surprised if it opens some related subjects on which I too have opinions, and will probably write about later.
A few months ago I was scouting a location to which I was about to travel, like I always do. As a photographer, I spend many hours researching locations before I go, trying to find the best, most beautiful and pristine spots to capture.
So I came across a blog post that mentioned a beautiful waterfall. And it recognized the fact that it is a little tough to get to and not very well known. This is the holy grail for photographers. We are constantly searching for the “gardens of eden” that exist out there. Rarely seen. Even more rarely photographed, or at least photographed well. We want to have images and experiences that few others have.
First, let me put something out there. And I think this provides a lot of confusion for some people. I am a conservationist, not an environmentalist. I line up more closely with Gifford Pinchot than John Muir, though I respect and admire Muir to the hilt. Muir is the heart, and Pinchot is the head.
And I believe wholeheartedly that the responsible use and enjoyment of our natural resources is necessary for nature’s healthy balance and an inherent right of humanity. The environmental movement has grown more radical (as movements led by pure emotion will) over the years, to include such theories as “the only way to preserve nature is to close it off to humans” and “natural resources are too fragile for mass human consumption” and “human beings are no more important than any plant or animal.” Somehow forgetting that human beings too are a part of nature, and in fact, the pinnacle of nature (as we know it), and therefore tasked with stewardship of the rest of the known, natural world. These facts are not inherently good or bad, just facts. It is what we chose to do with such knowledge that is so important.
The earth and its resources belong of right to its people.
So I believe we, as human beings (the only creatures that we know of with the capabilities of whole earth stewardship) are tasked with conserving the resources and beauty of the natural world for the sake of ourselves and generations to come. It’s pretty simple. And yes, I pump gasoline, use paper products, and eat meat. And no, I do not feel guilty for any of that. Though I do see the need to innovate in these areas and find more long-term sustainable alternatives.
Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men.
So back to the sharing. I decided to go explore this waterfall with the excitement and wonder I feel anytime I get to see a beautiful location.
It was truly awesome.
It made me feel small and thankful all at the same time. I was enriched for having seen and experienced this place.
And I wanted to share that with everyone.
Enter the debate.
Many of my kind (photographers, adventurers, explorers) are split on whether it is a good idea to share these lesser known, special places with the rest of the world, except by word of mouth. And I get it. I really do. I’m conflicted a bit by it in my heart.
But I want to examine the motivations first behind “to share or not to share” before I make my final decision on what’s right.
Why would I want to share:
+ The good: A genuine desire for others to enjoy the experience.
+ The bad, and the ugly: Selfish ambition and the desire to appear cool, or to be the “first” at something.
Why would I not want to share:
+ The good: A genuine desire to preserve the place.
+ The bad, and the ugly: Selfish ambition to keep it to myself, and to be “in the know” about something very few others have seen.
So both could very easily involve genuine, good desires, and also very selfish, ugly ambitions. Interesting. Well, since I can only know my own intentions, and it is futile to judge the heart and thoughts of another, I think it’s best to examine the eventual outcome of both scenarios.
What happens if I (we) chose not to share? Well, regardless of if I tell you (or anyone else) that I have a unicorn living in my backyard, eventually, people will find out. Whether the yard guy stumbles upon it, or the electricity meter reader, or my neighbor sees it, or a helicopter overhead catches the glint and shine from it’s iridescent rainbow horn, it will eventually become known to others. That is just a fact. Now, it may remain only known to a few for a longer while (if no one else shares), thereby preserving it perhaps a little longer. But the fact remains that eventually, it will become known to a wide enough audience that it may be in danger. So for that time of preservation, only a select few would be able to study it, enjoy it’s beauty, and even have the opportunity to learn something from the unicorn.
Okay, then what happens if I (we) chose to share? Can you imagine?? Immediately, upon finding a unicorn in my backyard, I share on Facebook and Twitter, and even a photo of it on Instagram that I found the earth’s only unicorn!! The world is in a frenzy for a week… news copters flying over my backyard, masses of people on foot peering over my fence, my street completely shut down with hoards of cars, anti-unicorn hate groups gain momentum online and plan attacks on my yard, etc. All of this lasts for a few days. I have to keep a close eye on my backyard and prized unicorn to ensure that no one try’s to deface it, steal it, or worse, kill it. But before the frenzy even dies down, others start to come out and reveal that they too have unicorns living in their backyard, and it’s not really such a frenzy any more. In fact, a majority of people (except of course for the crazy anti-unicorners) would grow to revere, respect, and possibly even cherish the unicorns we have. Maybe learn something from them, enjoy their beauty, and even teach their children about them.
God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.
To me, it makes more since to share… to educate and inspire others with the beautiful places we have on this amazing earth. The fact is, these places are not unicorns. And a lot of people aren’t even interested to put their screens down long enough to go hike a few miles to see a waterfall. If I have the opportunity to inspire someone with a photograph to become one of us, those that revel in nature’s beauty and wonder and seek to responsibly enjoy and preserve it, then I think that is a wonderful privilege. Even a responsibility.
I cannot control the anti-unicorners out there. Neither can you. Neither can the government. There will always be those out there that have respect for nothing. That will seek to destroy the beauty. But we cannot try to hide all of the beauty and wonder of our world because of these few fools. If we do, more people become uneducated fools, and run the risk of hating the world’s precious “unicorns”. Even John Muir knew this…
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
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Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
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