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When watching TV counts as studying for class

This past week, I watched Ken Burns’ film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Hopefully many people did, because it was an excellent series. It was 12 hours all together — 2 hours a night for 6 nights. That’s a lot of time to spend watching TV when you’re in a master’s program, but I justified it all since it is very relevant to my Natural Resources Law course this semester. In fact, we’ll begin discussing National Parks and protected lands this coming week. I feel like I have just done a whole bunch of background reading, except it was accompanied with beautiful scenic images, interesting interviews and pleasing music.

Of course, it would have been worth watching even if we weren’t going to talk about it in class. It was really fascinating to think about how the parks came into existence, and the individuals along the way that made the Park system what it is today. One of the most interesting things for me were the early perspectives on National Parks. I’ve only ever thought of National Parks as special places where people are encouraged to come to see wildlife and beautiful scenery. The idea of putting a dam in a National Park, or constructing a cable car across the Grand Canyon to draw visitors never would have crossed my mind. National Parks are special, and besides, why would people need any other reasons to come visit them besides the fact that they’re incredible natural specatacles. But, things were different — the idea I hold of National Parks has evolved over many years and many different periods in our nation’s history.

I won’t include all of my observations and thoughts from the series. Suffice it to say that it’s worth watching, and I hope I have the chance to watch again (particularly since I snoozed through several parts). I counted yesterday, and I think I’ve been to 17 National Parks. And after watching the series, there are definitely a few more I hope to visit. And, to bring it back to VLS, you can actually get to Acadia National Park in about 6 or7 hours driving from VLS. This would certainly be a worthy trip for any VLS student. Acadia is one of the most accessible parks, and is excellent for many activities, including hiking, biking, bird-watching, whale-watching, wind surfing and sailing. Put it on your list!

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