The Shutdown’s Other Cost

Mammoth Cave formations 2 hAt least once each day I go to to check the news.  These days when you do that one of the first things you see is a running counter estimating the cost of the government shutdown.  As I post this right now that number is listed at $2,582,110,975.00 and is increasing at a rate of twelve and a half million every hour the shutdown continues.  I have no idea what all goes into these calculations but needless to say that is a lot of money.  The shutdown is obviously costing our country and its citizens a tremendous amount of capital.  I would argue, however, that this is only part of the cost.  Not all the costs from this shutdown can be calculated in terms of money.  In more than one way there is also a spiritual cost.

_CES4202Due to the shutdown our national parks and national wildlife refuges are now closed.  Children from my own community had to cancel a scheduled trip to Mammoth Cave National Park last week.  One of my dearest friends, Bill Fortney, was supposed to do a photo workshop in Cuyahoga Valley National Park this week.  The group has been forced to look for other locations to photograph.  With fall foliage peaking in a number of areas across the country a lot of people planned vacations right now to national parks to enjoy the wonderful display of color that comes this one time of the year.  Those vacations have had to be altered.  I’ve already booked a flight for next month to photograph in one of our national wildlife refuges in New Mexico.  Will I be able to go as planned?  Time will tell.

_CES9869At this point you might be wondering where the spiritual cost is I mentioned previously.  I believe that all those who are kept from going to our national parks and refuges are being forced to pay a spiritual price by what they are missing out on.  As noted countless times on this site, for many of us our nearest and dearest experiences with God occur in places of extraordinary beauty.  By being blocked from these places we are also being denied the chance to see God and experience His presence.  I certainly realize that there are plenty of other places where we can experience beauty and God in Creation other than our national parks (hopefully state parks are seeing an increase in visitation) but who could deny that our national parks and refuges are special?  Most of them were established because there was something unique present—landscapes, flora or fauna—that warranted their protection and preservation.  For these same reasons these places offer us unique opportunities to experience God.

Bosque-4B0043John Muir wrote long ago that everyone needs “places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  Our national parks and refuges have helped fill this need since 1875.  We have come to rely on these places not just for our recreational needs but for our spiritual needs as well.  The loss of access to these places comes at a cost too.  You can’t put a price tag on wonder, peace of mind, or an experience of God in nature, but if you could that cost would be very high.   And for that reason it is not just for economic grounds I hope the government shutdown soon ends.  The spiritual cost may just be as high, or higher, than the economic one.


(I took the first image at Mammoth Cave National Park, the second image at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the third image at North Cascades National Park, and the fourth image at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.)

Editor’s Note: Today’s entry marks the 500th post by Seeing Creation!