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It's Now The 2050s. A Woman Reads A Postcard From Yellowstone In 2018

Yale student Anna Reside ponders the future Millennials and GenZers will call their own

EDITOR'S NOTE: Many springs, annually, for a long while, Mountain Journal founder Todd Wilkinson has been meeting with students from Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies about issues facing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They head West under the tutelage of Dr. Susan G. Clark, Yale professor and founder of the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative headquartered in Jackson Hole. For many students, it is their first contact with the region. One of the assignments Wilkinson gives them is writing letters to themselves decades into the future. MoJo will be publishing these essays. We find them thoughtful and impressive. Not only that, we believe there is power in listening to young people who are both shaping and inheriting their own future.

                                                              by Anna Reside

Dear Future Anna,

After being in Yellowstone for a week, I am reminded of a song lyric: “where you invest your love is where you invest your life.” 

Each of the inspiring people that I have met here this week—Katie Christiansen, Todd Wilkinson, Yellowstone's Chief of Wildlife Resources P.J. White and Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk—have chosen to invest themselves in this place and in these people. 

They have committed their lives to the future of this place and I can only hope that I, and all of us, can do the same wherever we end up. I am not confident that we can change cultural attitudes toward nature or prevent climate change, biodiversity loss, and encroaching development. But after spending a week here with incredible classmates who have a myriad array of interests, I am confident that I can have hope.

I can have hope because each of us is now more aware of what we have to lose and because we will each go into the world with a consciousness of how our decisions impact our wild lands. I can have hope because our passion and our commitment to people and to places will matter.

Anna Reside
Anna Reside
In my life, I want to engage with the world as it is, but with an awareness of what it should be. I want a world where my public lands are valued, where common interests are preferenced over special interests, where people feel legitimized by their institutions, and where all forms of life are recognized for their existence valueI recognize that these goals are naïve, and may very well be impossible, but I do believe we can take steps that bring us closer to them. 

Once I leave here, I will make a more concerted effort to engage civic responsibility and hold my representatives accountable for our public lands, I will use my passion to engage people in the places I love, and I will define and redefine my goals for myself and the world, and commit to taking deliberate steps toward achieving them. In environmental work, it is so easy to lose hope—the task can seem too daunting, too far gone, too complex—but being here this week gave me a new perspective. 

Yellowstone matters, and we care, and I don’t think we will lose it without a fight. But I haven’t figured out why this place matters. Maybe it’s the seemingly infinite time and space that one is reminded of when looking across a valley at a herd of bison, maybe it’s the tradition of stories and memories we have of Yellowstone, maybe it’s the pride we can feel as a nation for creating an example for conservation. 
Anna's friends at Yale find the snow on their recent spring learning expedition to Yellowstone
Anna's friends at Yale find the snow on their recent spring learning expedition to Yellowstone
Whatever the reason, I do know that if I turn 55 and there are no wild spaces left for me to share with my children, I will feel failed. I may not be able to do anything to change the future of these places. As Todd said, we may very well make the conscious decision to value other national challenges above conservation, but I know I will have failed myself if I let them vanish without having dedicated myself to fighting for their protection.

If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s that there are a lot of challenges ahead of us and a lot of choices to make. My goal for the next 35 years, no matter what I do, is to make my choices consciously and deliberately and with an awareness of our public lands.

Best, Anna
Anna Reside
About Anna Reside

Anna Reside is an environmental studies major from Nashville, Tennessee and will be entering her sophomore year at Yale University in autumn 2018. Along with her interest in pondering the function of still-intact ecosystems and the role of conservation, she is an avid runner, backpacker, rock climber and painter.

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