August 9, 2012
By Scott Lindemann
I was hiking along a ridge near the Wrigley Institute here on Catalina Island when I remarked to a friend “It’s been too long since I’ve seen stars.” But it has taken nearly a day for the full implication of my comment to sink in. It has been too long since I’ve seen the stars. Seeing those stars fulfilled a need I didn’t even know I had, and in my opinion, seeing the grandeur that nature has to offer fulfills a subconscious “spiritual” need for all humans.
Others have recognized this human desire for natural beauty as well. Perhaps since the dawn of human culture, nature has been a source of inspiration for artists, philosophers, and leaders of men, offering spiritual and intellectual fulfillment for the human soul. Interestingly enough, these services are referred to as “cultural services,” and are a recognized type of service that natural areas can provide to humans. Other types of services include “provisioning services” such as providing food, “regulating services” such as purifying water as it infiltrates into aquifers.
Despite these services, it seems to me that the implicit value of wilderness is hardly recognized by American culture. Prior to studying at USC, I viewed undeveloped land as simply empty space to be built on, void of any real value. While I appreciated the beauty of the great outdoors, I had no idea of the valuable and very real services that an undisturbed ecosystem could provide for humans. For instance, the Tongva people native to Catalina were able to use the environment for food, water, and soapstone. Today, marine kelp forests sequester carbon and terrestrial Catalina Cherry trees provide food for foxes and birds as well as the occasional curious human. Riparian soil, along with the plants and microorganisms living in it, cleans water as it flows into the ocean.
In my opinion, humans should place more value on these “valueless” services that ecosystems provide, and should think twice before developing undisturbed areas of land. The human population is growing, and it is important to preserve these areas of wilderness while they are still available. I for one am thankful that the area around the Catalina Island Wrigley Institute has been set aside as a Marine Protected Area, as well as being protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy. It is amazing to have such an undisturbed area of wilderness to pause, reflect on what is truly important in life, and to rejuvenate myself among the grandeur that is freely provided by this island along with its more practical services.
About the author: Scott Lindemann is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California. He enjoys reading, cooking, and lifting weights.