Humans are drawn to the mountains like moths to a flame. We want to climb them, camp in their meadows, and fish in their trickling streams. We forage for their fungal and green delights and sit in silence to better see the animals that make them their home. Some will even risk their lives to summit the most extreme elevations. I particularly like John Muir’s suggestion in his famous quote,People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! "Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' ... Now, these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them."
Today, December 11, is the United Nations International Mountain Day with this year’s theme Mountains Matter for Youth. They want to bring awareness to the importance of mountains in the ecosystem and the challenges that exist for youth that are born in mountain communities. These young people tend to leave their places of origin in search of better opportunities leaving abandoned agriculture and risking the loss of important cultural tradition. This year’s emphasis is on providing access to training, employment, and market access so that these young people can both thrive and continue to be a part of their communities.
The value of a mountain ecosystem extends far past a place for recreation and tourism. Occupying around ⅕ of our land surface, mountains are found on every single continent and at all altitudes, from near sea level to the highest place on earth. What’s important for us humans is they are essential not only for those who inhabit them but for the millions of people living on lower ground. On the global scale, mountains' greatest value for our well-being is the source of major rivers and the innumerable smaller ones which play an essential role in the water cycle. During winter snowfall, water is stored until it melts during warmer months providing the water need for mountain communities and the agriculture and industries downstream.
Mountains also contain some of the earth’s most interesting, important, and rare flora and fauna. The Giant Panda. Snow Leopard, Monarch Butterfly, Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird, and Philippine Eagle are all essential members of the ecosystem that make the mountains home. Important plants thrive in the mountains as well. Indigenous cultures require these plants for medicine and plant materials, many from rain forest ecosystems, have provided models for at least 50% of the present-day allopathic, Western, drugs.
These and many more reasons are why the UN has been bringing awareness to the mountain’s importance since 1992. You can direct funds to the National Parks Foundation when you shop Sevenly’s creative mountain graphics. And next time you head outside, consider a saunter in honor of John Muir and his famous, historical suggestion!