To the Wasatch, I am thankful.

As I was driving into work this morning, I passed by an apartment complex that was built about a year ago and for some reason, I thought, “What was there before?” I remember there was something in that space before, but what was it? When they began construction on the new complex, when they first cleared that space (and whatever was previously on it), I remember passing by it thinking “Oh they’ve torn down the – – – (???). I wonder what they’re going to build there?” I drove by every now and again during the construction of the new building. Each week it got bigger and bigger and taller and taller (much bigger than the original building that was on that lot before) and I remember thinking, “Whatever it is they’re building, it’s huge!” At that time, I was comparing the new structure to the old one that I was use to seeing in that space and it seemed like such a gigantic building was going into a spot where once there was just a small home or office, library? Bookstore? Day care? Laundromat?  WHAT WAS THERE BEFORE?!? I have no idea. I still don’t know. Anyway, I drove by one day and realized they were putting in  an apartment complex and over time, after driving by it regularly, it no longer seemed as out of place as it did before. It didn’t seem so intrusive or big or, well, ugly. I just accepted it and accepted that it “belonged” there. Once I did that, I just forgot what was ever there in the first place.

So, what is the point to all of this? Well, it made me think about development. The city is always changing and it seems that there’s always something old being replaced by something new (believe me, I know all too well how this works, seeing as the Save Our Canyons office is right in the middle of the new City Creek project in downtown Salt Lake). It made me think about development in a broader sense too though and because of my work, I began to think of it in terms of the Wasatch. Overall, I thought, I don’t ever want to look at our foothills, canyons, or mountains, and have to think or remember “What was there before?” (I’m already going to have to explain to future generations what the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon looked like before the Tavaci development. Jen just posted a blog about this, actually, if you’re interested in reading where that issue currently stands).

I want to be able to always look to the east of the Salt Lake Valley and see those spaces as they are today. I want my children (who don’t currently exist, but might someday), to see the same and their children too. I don’t ever want to have to try to remember what wilderness looked like or imagine what our beautiful Wasatch once was before it was paved over and developed. Replacing an old building with a new one, inside a city, is one thing. Losing wilderness is an entirely different story. In reading an article written by Collin Daugherty on oil development within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I came across the following paragraph, which holds just as true for the Wasatch as it does for any other wilderness:

“We may be able to split the atom, go to the moon, develop immunizations, and build metal structures that stretch into the sky but our ingenuity is helpless when it comes to producing wilderness. Wilderness cannot be created; once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Second chances don’t exist when dealing with such fragile environments virgin to exploitative practices which irreparably compromise an environment’s serenity first and foremost. No invention of our civilization will ever change that. It’s that which we cannot create, therefore, which should be given the deepest consideration before making decisions which threaten the serenity of the Earth’s few remaining wildernesses.”

The Wasatch Mountains as they exist today are priceless. They provide solitude, escape, beauty, a multitude of recreation opportunities, clean, pure water, and an abundance of plant and wildlife. All of the natural elements contained within are absolutely essential to the quality of life that I enjoy as a Salt Lake Valley resident. I can’t count the number of times I have been in those canyons, stood completely still, listened to the sound of nature (or the sound of nothing at all), taken a deep breath, and felt a pure sense of gratitude and awe for the peace and quiet and beauty. I could go on and on, but the point of this is that I am so thankful for everything the Wasatch has to offer. I hope you are too.

A moose in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Photo taken November 2010 by Havilah, Director of Operations for Save Our Canyons

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