Thursday, May 13, 2010

Defining a People

Two days ago Glacier National Park celebrated its 100th birthday. News of the celebration appeared within the pages of the Billings Gazette:
One hundred years ago, on May 11, 1910, the people of the United States set aside 1 million acres of their finest federal land, protecting the tremendous mountain scenery of Glacier National Park.

And no one noticed.

Nearly a week later, the Daily Interlake ran the following story: “There has been some local inquiry as to whether the Glacier National Park bill had been signed by the president.

An inquiry sent to Associated Press headquarters brings back the reply that the bill was signed on May 11th.”

Two sentences, buried at the very bottom of the page.
I think the creation of Glacier National Park 100 years ago relates to the creation of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument last year. So how are Glacier and Mariana Trench alike? I imagine that 99 years from now when Mariana Trench is celebrating its 100th birthday, a story will be written like the one that appears in the Billings Gazette and quotes will be taken like the following:
“and you can see how the locals’ relationship to the park has changed,” said Michael Ober, librarian at Flathead Valley Community College. “Today that park is a big part of how we identify ourselves. It’s literally who we are.”
The people of Kalispell, Montana define themselves in relation to Glacier? Will the same be true of the Marianas in 99 years? When people ask, "where is Saipan?" will the answer hence forth become, "next to the Mariana Trench?" Yes!

Another quote:
“People of that time had no idea of what Glacier could be in the future,” said Joe Unterreiner, head of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.

What it could be, it turns out, is an economic engine, a marketing brand, a reservoir for wildness, a natural laboratory, a playground and a link, Unterreiner said, “to the past and to the future, too.”
99 years from now will Mariana Trench be an economic engine, a marketing brand, a reservoir for wildness, a natural laboratory, a playground and a link to the past and to the future? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, "You betcha!"

When the Saipan Tribune endorsed the monument in July 2008 the editorial board used the example of Kalispell to paint a vision of how Mariana Trench could anchor the Saipan economy. They were almost prophetic.

I've said it before and I'll probably say it for the rest of my life, everyone who helped support the creation of the monument deserves a big thank you. If history is any measure of what the monument will become, you've done nothing less than to help define the future of a people. Wow.

That long term process and the benefits that have been brought by the monument continue to accrue. Next month, Outside Magazine will release their July issue which is dedicated to water. Last year's 10 day expedition the Northern Islands will be featured in a 5000 word spread.

What does this mean for the Saipan and the rest of the Marianas? Well, how much would it cost for the Marianas Visitors Authority to purchase 12 full pages of advertising space in Outside Magazine? That question is easy to answer because Outside Magazine publishes their advertising rates.

A twelve page spread featuring the Northern Mariana Islands in Outside Magazine is worth $937,860. The Pew Environment Group and the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument and their supporters deserve a hearty thank you for helping to provide this benefit to every single person living in the Marianas.

Makes one wonder what will be next? James Cameron drawing inspiration for Avatar 2 from his upcoming dive to the Mariana Trench? The discovery of a new species during this summer's research expeditions to Maug, Agrigan, Pagan, Alamagan, and Sarigan?

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