Netflix's 'Our Great National Parks' Is the Perfect Start to National Parks Week

Barack Obama talking about national parks is everything I didn't know I needed

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Seth K. Hughes/Getty Images

I guess I should've seen it coming. After all, two of my favorite things are public lands and former President Barack Obama's soothing voice. So it's perhaps less of a surprise that I spent more than four hours binging Netflix's new documentary series "Our Great National Parks," narrated by Obama, over the past three days.

My sage advice: Watch it.

In an age of pandemic, war, and inflation, watching incredible footage of wildlife and our planet's most beautiful landscapes while listening to Obama's calm cadence was everything I didn't know I needed in my life. It's also the perfect kick-off to National Parks Week, which started last Saturday and goes through this Sunday.

Higher Ground Productions—Michelle and Barack Obama's production company—produced the five-part series, which premiered on April 13. The series does a solid job of interweaving Obama's personal connection to public land. It begins with Obama walking the beaches of Hawai'i, where he was born, as he tells a story of his mother sitting in the waves while pregnant with him and how she later believed that's what led to his calming demeanor.

It then features the Tsavo National Park in Obama's father's home country of Kenya and the Gunung Leuser National Park in Indonesia, where Obama lived with his mother and stepfather for a few years as a child. Above all, the series highlights what is unique about preserving land—the connection between that land, its wildlife, and us while striking an ideal balance between history, nature, interconnectedness, the impacts of climate change, and how preserving land plays a vital role in all of it.

Often considered one of America's best and most influential ideas, Yellowstone was established as the first national park 150 years ago. Since then, more than 100 countries worldwide have created some 1,200 national parks or equivalent protected public lands. And that doesn't begin to measure the amount of state, regional, and county parks that have also been created since the protection of Yellowstone.

As Obama notes many times throughout the series, the establishment of public lands is essential to restoring ecosystems, rehabbing migration patterns, and ensuring wildlife continue to have a place to thrive. And, if we allow it, the land can become a piece of us, and we can become a piece of the land.

Happy National Parks Week, everyone! Here's to hoping you can get out and enjoy some public lands and find a more profound and powerful connection between yourself and the land around you. Or, at the very least, allow Obama's narration over remarkable footage to calm you during a time of unrest and unknown.

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  1. National Park Service. "Birth of a National Park." Accessed April 19, 2022.