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The yellow magazine spines smiled at us from their new spot on the bookshelves in our son’s room.

A voracious reader, my husband and I helped him create a spot to place some bookshelves to adequately hold and display all his history novels, series collections, models and other books he loves so dearly, including his accumulation of National Geographic magazines. He tears into a new issue as soon as it arrives and saves all of them in chronological order on his shelves.

Last week, National Geographic’s website featured an article on four new “wonders of the world:” the Ogasawara Islands in Japan, the Kenya Lake System in Africa, the Ningaloo Coast in Australia's Cape Range National Park, and Wadi Rum Protected Area in Jordan.

The locations were chosen by the World Heritage Convention, which according to its website, includes 936 properties: 725 cultural, 183 natural and 28 mixed properties in 153 states and countries around the world. Some of the places in America include the Everglades National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, the Grand Canyon National Park, Independence Hall and Yellowstone National Park. Internationally, some of the more familiar places include Machu Picchu, the Belize Barrier Reef System, the Sydney Opera House, The Great Wall, Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia (a personal favorite), the Acropolis in Athens, the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, and even Auschwitz.

As the World Heritage Convention website explains, “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage. What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”

Around the same time I read about this, American news organizations threw updated stories about our current, national financial crisis and debate onto my desktop like a ticker tape parade.

“Raise the debt ceiling,” some say.

“Lower the debt,” say others.

“Raise revenue,” say even more.

According to several news agencies, the United States is at risk of losing its triple-A credit score for the first time since 1917.

All because of overconsumption.

Increased indebtedness.

And I dare say, greed.

No wonder so many folks these days find themselves in dire financial crises.

We’re simply following the example of our fearless leaders.

So what does this have to do with the World Heritage Convention and National Geographic?

Not a whole lot, unless I stop to think about what kind of legacy I’m leaving future generations.

I'm betting the United States founding fathers had more in mind for us than this. Independence Hall deserves to be on the WHC list, but only if we hold to the sort of independence they had in mind.

Freedom from tyranny.

Freedom from governments which become enslaved by and overlook corruption.

Freedom to live within our means in a culture which does not patronize or belittle those who choose to do so.

At least the other WHC locations in the United States share these attributes. The Everglades, the Redwoods, the foliage and abundant life in Yellowstone and the glowing faces of the Grand Canyon have no choice but to live within the means of whatever weather systems, turn of the earth and pull of the moon come their way. Moreover, they are indeed content to do so.

Would that we, as a culture and a people, do the same, in addition to learning from our past, cherishing what we live with today, and considering everyday what we will pass on to future generations.

Visit http://whc.unesco.org/ to learn more about the World Heritage Convention.

Amy Sorrells is a Zionsville resident and writer. Amy welcomes thoughts and ideas via email at aksorrells@gmail.com.

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