Here's a link to a beautiful photo journal about the Great Plains on npr.org. After reading the article, take a moment to review some of the comments made by your fellow Americans. It is becoming obvious that there needs to be a vehicle for people to understand one another and quit speaking in bold over generalizations and hate.
Here is the original comment that I am very concerned about:
"While these beautiful photos may inspire some to consider other realities then the current one we have, the vast majority of the Great Plains does not look like this. What land that isn't plowed under to flavor your cola is grazed to little nubbins. Most efforts to either restore or preserve intact grassland is met by outright hostility by local residents (who by the way, take pleasure in 'misting' prairie dogs, poaching prairie chickens or simply shooting anything with wings or four legs). Meanwhile, the social circumstances of the great plains are turning downright feudal, as giant ag-businesses enjoy lavish subsidies while employing illegal immigrants for dangerous and menial labor. The only future for people in most of these places is as a large landowner or corporate agricultural supply dealer, that is if you can stay off the meth. Take away the lonely grain elevators and the quaint town halls, and the bulk of the towns look like they were modeled from a frontage road at the Newark airport. I'd love to see great swaths of it return to bison running wild from Calgary to Chihuahua, but the bizarre mix there of religious fundamentalists, property rights & gun 'aficionados' with Jerry Springer family traditions make it unlikely."
How do you even respond? Well, if you follow the link, you'll find that the authors have done a wonderful job of highlighting some beautiful shots of nature. But where are the people and why does it matter?
People are what make these spaces livable as well as what make this harsh landscape humane and understandable. Images such as the young girl carrying a calf are what help to break hardened hearts. I know this because I grew up urban. While driving from Loveland CO to Lincoln NE every summer growing up, I would pear out of the car window at the nothing of Eastern Colorado. When I saw corrals, old windmills and barbed wire fence, I honestly thought they were by-products of the pioneer age. It never entered my mind that they were still working facilities. Even houses that were obviously inhabited could not break the thought of "who could live out here" in my head. It took me spending time (more than stopping at a rural filling station) with these people and observing their lives to initiate a change in my thinking.
The point is, we need more connection with real people. Whether it be books, youtube, or television, it is imperative to bridge the divide with human emotion, real faces and real families. Pictures of nature or even livestock only fuel the urban mind set that plainly thinks that rural folks are ruining everything. If you don't agree, do some online investigation and read the comments posted on any story dealing with the BLM, Ranches, National Parks, agriculture and the like. Be prepared, you will be appalled.
To round out the post, here's my response to this person's terribly misguided comment:
Dear sir or madam,
I am sorry that you are so misguided and ignorant about the western lifestyle and Great Plains of our nation. First of all, you might do some good to educate yourself before making such bold and hateful statements. For instance, most of the western plains have been stricken by drought for much of the past decade which has made it economically difficult for many. Despite this, they are still working to provide you with food everyday. Also, much of the western great plains is officially designated as a short grass prairie. Even without livestock, it would look mostly the same because that's how God (or nature) designed it. In fact, my in-laws run a cattle ranch in an area similar to the sandhills of Nebraska. They make a good living running cows in grass that is as tall as the hood of pickup some years when the rain allows. We feel no need to apologize that misguided criminals use farm chemicals to market a detrimental drug mostly to urban users. All of the people I know hate meth just as much as you do.
Isn't it a blessing to live in a nation where you're not told how much land you can acquire and are allowed to pursue a passion for cultivating land? Western landowners are somewhat hostile towards your "conservation" efforts because they have had to observe their neighbors who willingly cooperated with environmental groups and know the people who suffer after all of the urban publicity leaves and another family is stripped of their heritage They do not need to be lectured by an urban constituency of career academics and environmentalists who "know better". Farmers and ranchers spend a lifetime learning and caring for their land to conserve it for future generations. They are the experts of their environment and no amount of book education can compare to a life spent caring for land.
I am saddened by your obvious need to hate these people without ever taking the time to understand them. Interestingly enough, you resort to using the same hate and ignorance that you so vehemently rebuke. Thank you for providing me the ammunition needed to continue bridging the gap between your obvious urban existence and those choose not to defend themselves from your ignorance.