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Visiting national parks in 2021: Now, we are disrupting more than receiving

After more than a year of pandemic-related travel restrictions, Americans are ready to get back on the road again. While air travel might still seem to be a bit iffy, the traditional road trip vacation is making a return. In this case, national parks have become the popular destinations among travelers in 2021.

In the U.S, both big and small national parks quickly filled up every day because of overcrowding. The situation has become a little out of control.

PHOTO CRED: Ershov Maks.

Many people have driven all the way to the parks but ended up being turned away because the parking lots have no vacancy. Conflicts and fistfights between visitors for spots at the parks are common as well.

However, the most problematic reality is the increasing carbon footprint left behind by visitors in nature. People have caused a series of environmental issues that they don’t even notice. Nature is facing some critical challenges.

Littering has become a big issue. While visitors are enjoying the blessings of nature, they are also over-consuming it. Irresponsible behaviors such as leaving non-biodegradable waste behind, painting and carving on the rockfaces, and disturbing the wildlife have severely affected the ecosystems within the National Parks.

How many people are visiting national parks in 2021?

road trip vacations
PHOTO CRED: Michael Vi.

Just exactly how many people have been swarming to the national parks since the pandemic started? According to the National Park Service, national parks hosted around 237 million visitors in 2020.

While national parks have seen rising popularity in 2021, the official visitor counts this year won’t be completely transparent and available until mid-2022, as Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, chief spokesperson for the NPS said.

The most visited national parks, as the report further shows, have hit significant visitor counts during the pandemic.

For instance, just last year all around, Great Smoky Mountains National Park hit 12.1 million, Yellowstone National Park 3.8 million, Zion National Park 3.6 million, Rocky Mountain National Part 3.3 million, Grand Teton National Park 3.3 million, and Grand Canyon National Park 2.9 million.

Although the overall recreational visits to national parks in 2020 were down more than 90 million visits (27.6 percent) from 2019, the number was still impressive.

This year, according to Today, tremendous amounts of visitors have already shown up at various national parks locations. For example, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming received 88,000 visitors in April alone. The number was a 48 percent increase from its 2019 season.

Problems that arise with overcrowded national parks

It’s fun to go to national parks to enjoy nature. Road trip vacations can be the perfect time to bond with family or friends.

However, along with the increasing popularity of national parks, there come many undesired consequences as well. Visitors, in general, don’t seem to be responsible enough for their behaviors.

nps conservation
PHOTO CRED: NPS via NPCA (National Parks Conservation Association)

Littering has always been a headache when it comes to the preservation of the natural environment. Each year, the NPS oversees 70 million pounds of trash, food scraps, and hygiene products left behind by visitors.

The NPS urges people to take responsibility for their behaviors and minimize their waste output.

There are also visitors who have been extremely disrespectful of the natural scenery, like carving and painting on the rockfaces.

national parks 2021

“Graffiti and other forms of damage to park resources are harmful and illegal. Repair of vandalized sites is costly and time consuming. Often, a damaged site can never be fully restored to its original condition.”

Zion National Park for National Parks Traveler.

Human activities have also greatly affected the lives of wild animals as well. It’s understandable that people get excited when they are so up close to wild animals in real life.

However, wild animals are untamed and often not so friendly to strangers who trespass on their territories. Attempts to interact with wild animals is not only risky but also peculiarly immature and irresponsible.

So why all the swarming to national parks in 2021?

In recent years, there have been frequent filed reports on travelers who lost their lives by falling off the cliffs in various national parks.

For instance, a Phoenix man slipped off the cliff edge and died in 2018 and a Greek tourist fell to his death when a rock underneath him gave way in 2010 at the Instagram-famous Horseshoe Bend. What is driving people to visit despite the many incidents that happened?

national parks 2021
PHOTO CRED: John Burcham. Image via The Guardian.

“Social media is the number one driver. People don’t come here for solitude. They are looking for the iconic photo,” said Maschelle Zia.

The social media push is an irresistible force. People share their travel posts at the national parks on their social media and attract even more people to come. Viewers on the other end of the phone will think, “oh this place looks cool, I want to go check out too.” Such effect snowballs and eventually leads to the plummeting recreational visit. People are the greatest impact.

road trip vacation
PHOTO CRED: John Burcham via The Guardian.

Nevertheless, the nature of national park visits has changed. Rather than a temporary getaway from hectic workload and city life, national park trips in 2021 are more like a competition to create more iconic (sometimes even dangerous) photos.

What can we do to slow down the deteriorating environmental conditions?

national parks 2021
PHOTO CRED: John Burcham via The Guardian.

Little do we know that the national parks we love are “in danger.” Earlier this year, National Parks Traveler released its second annual list of national parks that are threatened and endangered by overcrowding.

Zion National Park in Utah, for example, is currently listed as endangered. Its scenic canyon has attracted many visitors via road trip and flight vacations every year, but this also makes the park struggle to control crowds.

Irresponsible visitors have treated the park with disrespect. They have defaced rockfaces with spray paint, carved their initials into the soft sandstone, and trampled vegetation by straying off designated trails, according to the NPS.

road trip vacation

Followed by Zion, a couple other national parks have also faced similar crises, just not as severe. The conditions of Arches National Park in Utah, Big Cypress National Preserves in Florida, Glacier National Park in Montana, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee/North Carolina, and Mount Rainier National Park in Washington currently list these parks as threatened.

Therefore, what can we do to help preserve the national parks? While the National Park Service can definitely improve its reservation systems, invest in more rangers, scientists and administrative staff, and do better jobs at crowd control, we visitors must be held responsible for our own behaviors as well.

Be more respectful of nature as well as the wild animals that reside within. Your road trip vacation is not more important than the natural world.

Because if we don’t do something urgent about the situation now, the national parks will all be gone one day. Don’t let nature pay the price for our reckless decisions and behaviors.

Really though, do the Olympics deserve Black women?

The 2021 Olympics in Tokyo are coming up, and people are talking about the anxieties and excitement associated with the Games. Many view the Olympics, which were postponed last summer due to COVID, as a symbol of a return to normalcy. But in some ways, this is a bad thing, both for the false declaration, and for the way the Olympics treats its Black women athletes.

Many are anxious that the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will become a super-spreader COVID event. This wouldn’t be surprising considering how many athletes, trainers, and spectators were supposed to attend. And, Tokyo just declared a state of emergency due to a spike in COVID cases.

We need to talk about the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and its relation to the pandemic, yes. But there are other widespread issues that we need to address. People are not talking enough about the way Black women have been mistreated in sports, specifically in the Olympics. 

The hypocrisy of white spectators

Many misunderstand how systemic racism presents in sports.

Some think that since we celebrate famous Black women athletes such as Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglass, Laila Ali, Simone Manuel, and so on, surely racism does not still exist in sports.

But one of the problems is that we tend to only celebrate these Black women when they win despite the obstacles that society sets before them. And not even always then. 

White society uses Black athletes as a source for entertainment, which is exacerbated for Black women, as society objectifies women in more ways than men. At the Olympics, society appropriates the victories of Black women for a source of patriotic pride. Yet, our country continues to treat them as lesser-than.

Recent criticism toward the Olympics’ lack of inclusivity has further exposed long-existing hypocrisy among white spectators.

Olympic organizers exposed for exclusivity

Critics are reiterating how Olympic organizers do not support Black competitors, particularly Black women.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) refused to approve the Soul Cap for international competition. Soul Cap is a brand of swimming caps designed for “thick, curly, and voluminous hair,” as quoted on CNN.

In other words, Soul Caps can accommodate for the natural hair of many Black people and Black women. However, FINA rejected the inclusive Soul Cap designs.

Soul Cap said to BBC reporters that FINA banned the caps because they do not “follow the natural form of the head.” After receiving backlash, FINA decided to review their previous decision, but the damage has been done.

The Olympics have unwelcomed Black athletes and implied that natural Black hair is somehow unnatural and an inconvenience to other athletes.

The Olympics continues to deem some Black bodies unnatural by refusing to let Christina Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi compete.

These 18-year-old Black women sprinters from Namibia are not allowed to compete for having naturally high levels of testosterone. According to CNN, naturally high levels of testosterone has hindered many other Black women from competing in the Olympics. 

Olympic organizers are attempting to define femaleness and womanhood. Who gave them that right? They’re extending their responsibilities to further oppress Black women.

Why are we putting so much pressure on Black woman athletes?

White people have a history of exploiting Black athletes in the US.

Joseph Cooper writes in The Boston Globe that “whites who control mainstream sports have long exploited Black athletes—economically, psychologically, politically, and for entertainment.”

And, for “Black males, athletic performance [is] valued more than their educational development.” White society attempts to manipulate and dehumanize the Black athletic body into a source of entertainment. But what about Black women athletes?

Considering the intersectional identities of Black women, their experiences may be similar to those of Black male athletes, yet very distinct.

Claudia Rankine writes in The New York Times that on top of experiencing exploitation for entertainment, Black women athletes are often criticized in ways that “perpetuate racist notions that Black women are hypermasculine and unattractive.”

These notions are apparent in how the “unnatural” Soul Caps were banned and how some Black women are excluded from competition for natural levels of testosterone.

The Olympics don’t deserve Black women

We tend to celebrate the bodies and victories of Black women only when they are convenient for us.

This pandemic of racism in the Olympics and all sports requires our attention and understanding just as much as COVID does. We need to stop this paradoxical, hypocritical spectatorship. Clearly, the Olympics do not deserve the prowess, grace, and passion of Black women athletes.

Holiday Music

Hip hop holiday music that will still slap in 2021

One of the more unique trends circulating in the music industry today is the emergence of hip hop holiday music. Specifically hip hop and R&B artists, but musical talents in general, are recognizing the lucrative opportunities the holiday season presents.

Holiday music is not a new occurrence in hip hop. On the contrary, legendary artists like Run DMC, Snoop Dogg and Death Row Records have all had successful efforts before.

Despite this fact, it seems like the pandemic’s ability to keep us indoors has sparked the inspiration for a resurgence.
Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto

Hip hop holiday music in 2020

Chance The Rapper and Jeremih’s Christmas album Merry Christmas Lil Mama dropped earlier this year. Although it came out on Soundcloud in 2017, the artists have officially made the project available on the other streaming platforms.

Although the album is essentially the same project as the original with the exception of a few songs, it could be that the artists plan to carry out the project in the future.

Are U Live

LVRN has banked a lot on its talent in holiday rap music

LVRN (Love Renaissance) collectively dropped a nine-track project of Christmas music.

With songs featuring 6lack, Summer Walker, Shelley fka D.R.A.M, Westside Boogie, and Eli Darby, the album has an array of different sounds that differ from the traditional Christmas album.

Maintaining themes of classics like Feliz Navidad, Santa Baby, and This Christmas, LVRN’s renditions of the holiday classics produced a unique take on music that has been sung for decades.

Santa Baby

Considering the diversely talented roster on LVRN, this project thus opened a window for the label to contribute to a positive musical tradition.

Pornhub joins the hip hop holiday music trend

Following Valentine’s day xxx album, Pornhub has chosen Christmas as its next hip hop holiday album release. The star-studded tracklist features artists like A$AP Ferg, Rubi Rose, Sukihana, and Mila J shows that Pornhub has a presence in music.

The platform has a long-winded history working with the range of artists. From Kanye West and Wacka Flocka to Blac Chyna and Asian Doll, Pornhub will continue to release compilation projects.

Playboi Carti to drop Whole Lotta Red on Christmas Day

There’s is nothing like a Christmas day drop and at this moment each and every Playboi Carti fan is stupid hype/shook.

We can honestly thank Mario Judah for applying the pressure.

As Carti Christmas approaches and we look to Whole Lotta Red to close out 2020, how has other holiday hip hop music kept us inspired?

Christmas rap songs and other holiday music will help us push into 2021

While the release of Christmas albums and music may not be the most anticipated bodies of work during the year, it is a unique way for artists to make light-hearted music with the intentions of happiness behind it.

These hip hop holiday projects have therefore been a good way for artists to express their personalities over classic songs that have been done for years.

As new artists continue to push the boundaries in music, the tradition should make for new classics soon.

What do you think of the hip hop holiday music albums or Christmas rap songs that have been released this year? Do you think this decade will bring new holiday classics?