Today (June 30) marks the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln signing a bill granting Yosemite Valley to California “for public use, resort and recreation.” It was the first time that the federal government set aside public lands to protect them from exploitation and to allow for their enjoyment by all people. Now, 153 years later, we’re down to the last few bits of available land.
Stamford biologist and environmental scientist Gretchen Daily, however, rightly reminds us that the need for more nature cannot be fulfilled by simply “locking up” more acreage in extensive park systems. To truly protect our planet, we must begin in our backyards and local communities. Dr. Daily urges us to consider our “dependent” relationship with nature. How do we get the nutritious food that we eat? How do we protect ourselves from diseases? How do we protect ourselves from upstream river flooding, or along coastlines pounded by storms? How do we maintain our inner peace, our mental health and well-being? The answer to all these questions can be found in the steps we take to live in harmony with nature. Such harmony continues to be one of our own congregational goals - as we implement the sixth year of our “healthy habitat” pledge.
As a director of the Stamford Woods Institute for the Environment, Dr. Daily drafted a comprehensive map of the U.S. coastline - showing where and how much protection individual communities get from natural habitats such as sand dunes, coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves. Her objective now is to bring research teams, local business leaders and legislators together to tackle urgent environmental issues in all their complexity… to value nature’s benefits … and determine practical actions and policies that can secure not only our ecosystem, but our individual well-being, as well.