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Welcome to Wilderness Week!

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The Verge thinks parks rule, and you should too

Without its national parks, "America The Beautiful" might be a song about polluted skies, dirty strip malls, and gated playgrounds. The park system has lovingly been called "America’s best idea" for a good reason; even in a time when it feels like our neighbors are yelling at each other more than ever, we can all agree that parks already make America great.

This week marks the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, and for The Verge it’s an opportunity to explore spacious skies and majestic mountains. Preservation and conservation don’t begin and end with parks, but this timely anniversary got us thinking about wilderness and all the wild things happening in it around the world.

People are licking bats out there

This week we’re going to take a look at the ways people are enjoying nature — from the backcountry adventurer, to the just-visiting city slicker. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and saguaros for parks around the world, and Joshua Tree isn’t just a place for the bros from Entourage to drop acid. So we’re also going to look at how climate change and human sprawl continue to threaten what we love about nature: from tall things like the iconic whitebark pines of the Rocky and Sierra Mountains, to small things like lizards in Los Angeles. People are even licking bats out there. (Please don’t lick the bats.)

Parks and wild spaces may seem like museums of the past, but they’re essential parts of our future. It’s not a coincidence that most of our sci-fi nightmares use the death of nature as the scenery of our end times — we can hardly imagine a future without it, unless we somehow strap ourselves to rockets and blast off. And while settling Mars is definitely a cool idea, we love the planet we’ve got. Let’s celebrate it.