Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. national parks have reported a record number of visitors. As more and more Americans venture out into public lands and shared green spaces, it raises new conversations about who gets to lay claim to the space and feel like they belong.
These questions of belonging are central to the history of how the national parks came to be. Theodore Roosevelt, the “conservationist president,” is known for establishing 150 national forests, five national parks, and eighteen national monuments on over 230 million acres of public land. He was also a white supremacist who believed that white settlers were better stewards of the land than Native Americans.
For today’s show, guest host Richelle Wilson talks about reckoning with this history of the parks and what they mean to us today with writer and environmental historian Daegan Miller.
In the final segment of the show, we present an audio narration of Daegan’s essay “Badwater,” which relates his formative encounter with a buffalo herd in the Badlands as an early twentysomething.
Daegan Miller is a writer, critic, and landscape historian. He is the author of the book This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent (University of Chicago Press, 2018). His essay “Badwater” appears in the five-volume series Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations, published by the Center for Humans and Nature.
Thanks to the Center for Humans and Nature for giving us permission to air the audio narration of “Badwater,” which originally appeared on Edge Effects and was produced and edited by Justyn Huckleberry.