“There is an alternate reality where there aren’t any national parks. And that would be such a shame for the world, and for America,” Executive Producer Anwar Mamon told me towards the end of our chat.
It’s a hard-hitting thought, and one that stuck with me. What would America look like without the grand conservation legacy of our national parks?
“I’m in awe of, and some of this is in the series, of when these landscapes were protected. Some of them 100-years-ago, some even more,” Anwar continued. “The fact that people had the foresight to protect these lands early on is really special. And a great example of why we should conserve, and how we should go about it.”
This, the U.K. native says, is easily what shocked him most during his three-and-a-half year deep dive into America’s national parks for the National Geographic series by the same name. “Some of the filming periods were over a year in the same national park. So a lot of us, a lot of our crews, got to know national parks and their animals really intimately,” he adds. “Which, obviously, is an incredible experience itself. But there was still so, so much that was surprising.”
The other aspect of ‘America’s National Parks’ that shocked the globe-trotting conservationist just as much? Hawaii.
“It’s funny you mention Hawaii, because Hawaii… Everything in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park made me jump out. I just couldn’t put my finger on how this place could even exist on our planet,” Mamon laughs. Our previous conversation touched on the vast diversity of America’s national parks, and how mind-blowing it is to visit Acadia in Maine, Yellowstone in Wyoming, and Hawaii Volcanoes and still be in the same country.
“I was just blown away by it all, because Hawaii is just such a strange place, biologically speaking. Because it’s volcanic, it has some very interesting animals that almost feel alien-like. The whole landscape is so different from what you would imagine. Yet it is part of the United States, and it is really accessible,” Anwar continues.
But this, he says, “is the other beautiful thing about America’s national parks: they are accessible and they are for everyone.”
‘There is an alternate reality where there aren’t any national parks. And that would be such a shame for the world, and for America’
Every U.S. state has National Park Service sites. And “Looking ahead to the future,” Mamon says, “there are such important learnings from the National Park Service on how we can protect the natural world, and why it is important to protect. Because there is an alternate reality where there aren’t any national parks. And that would be such a shame for the world, and for America.”
And the more Americans visit our great national parks, the more they’ll care. As for Anwar and his crews, “I think we all came away from filming the series worried about their future,” he emphasizes.
“But we are also hopeful, because they are protected. And at the very least, people can go and explore them now.”
America’s National Parks premieres Monday, August 29 at 9 PM ET on National Geographic. New episodes will air through Friday, Sept. 2, with all five episodes available for streaming on Disney+ starting Aug. 31.