Out of the Wilderness

11:31 a.m. on March 12, 2008 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Out of the Wilderness"

The decreasing numbers of people getting outdoors is a topic of interest both here at Trailspace and farther afield. Last month Newsweek published the article “Out of the Wilderness" (February 18) with the subhead, "A new study says we’re not getting out into nature as much as we used to. Maybe that's a good thing.” I was glad to see Newsweek covering the issue, but thought the ...

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2008/03/12/out-of-the-wilderness.html

1:28 p.m. on March 12, 2008 (EDT)
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Couldn't agree more.

Things as simple as starting kids out with backyard camping (even -gasp- under the stars!) can a memorable and positive-steering experience. One doesn't need $3k vacation budgets to enjoy the outdoors. You just need to get outdoors, and give yourself a chance to enjoy them.

3:54 p.m. on March 19, 2008 (EDT)
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This is only a US trend? I don't think it is the case here in the UK. But I worry about the kids: Either parents or the education system must introduce kids to outdoor activity. With me it was school, but outdoor Ed' is being threatened by lawyers!

4:29 p.m. on March 19, 2008 (EDT)
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Perhaps this is related to times being tougher economically? Maybe people have less time and money to get outside for recreational activities. They probably can't afford the gas to get very far from town either. Ultimately, everything is an economic issue, including the wilderness.

11:44 a.m. on March 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Having worked with boyscouts and youth groups all my life I have seen major differences in those that spend time outdoors, unstructred, and those that don't. The ones outside are more self efficacious and therefore become much more useful to themselves and the world at large. The idea that it is an economic issue is foolish. Birds and little animals live in the city-go find them. Short walks around the block seem to have as much air involved as do some of the longer excursions. Muscles expand and contract just as well in the backyard as they do on the normal route. You or someone you know surely has a backyard, so pitch a tent and roast a hot dog and teach everyone that life outside is not only possible but beautiful in the extreme. There's no excuse for any human being to not have been exposed to the greater outdoors, there is really too much at stake to let any more children grow up without knowing what they are growing up in.

Mike

7:53 p.m. on March 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Within 10 miles of my house are 2 free campsites and a Youth Hostel. This is on the very urban San Francisco Peninsula. One of the campsites is a backpack campsite which can be reached from 2 trailheads (actually 6 if you count 4 that are harder to access), one of which is within 5 miles of my house. That closest trailhead is about 5.2 miles backpack from the campsite, and the other is 2.5 miles hike (the other 4 are longer hikes). The other campsite is in a Palo Alto City Park 5 miles from my house, though it is open only to PA residents and their guests. Oh, I forgot another one that is about 10 miles away. Besides those, I did a talk for youth leaders listing backpacking campsites within 100 miles of my house, and discovered there are several hundred, plus a large number of car camp sites. Most of these are free or very low cost to youth groups. The trailheads of a number are close to or directly accessible by public transportation.

Lest you say, "Well, that's all very well for those of you in the Western US", when we lived in the Boston area and when we lived in Mississippi, we found that there were many campsites, some backpacking, some car camp, that were within very short distances, a number of which were free or low cost to youth groups. I have spent a lot of time around the DC area, which has a lot of places to hike within short distances of anyplace in the District. Even NYC has Central Park, which gets pretty close to Nature in places, with an amazing amount of wildlife.

Sorry, but I can't accept the excuse that economics keeps kids from the outdoors, even in the largest cities and even for the poorest places. East Palo Alto, once named the "Murder Capital of the US", is right on the SFBay with many of the Baylands paths within walking distance of any part of the town, paths that lead to some of the most heavily populated migratory bird populations anywhere. Richmond, CA, currently notorious for the highest murder rate in Calif, also has many open space areas with hiking trails, and is right on the SFBay with lots of wildlife. Oakland, CA, location of some of the worst of the poorest people in the US, has dozens of parks, including some really beautiful redwood groves (in Joaquin Miller Park, for example), as well as bordering the SFBay and having beautiful sections of shoreline. Yet, when you go to these beautiful natural places, you only rarely see the local residents taking advantage of those free resources.

It takes adults willing to get the kids out to these places and introduce them to the outdoors. Unfortunately, what they see is a limited world of a car-oriented culture (and the nightly "sideshows" that feature tricked-up cars turning donuts in the midst of large crowds), gangs, drug dealing, and an attitude that there is no alternative (reinforced by the adults around them). Most regulars on Trailspace know that I work with training adult youth-group leaders. One major program of Boy Scouts is called Scoutreach, which works with disadvantaged girls and boys. I have run several groups of adult leaders in this program through training sessions to train them to introduce the challenge of climbing to the kids. They have available an artificial climbing wall with all the needed gear. But somehow, many of those adults come in with the attitude that this climbing stuff is too hard and that they do not have the physical coordination to do it (hey, you don't have to climb yourself, just provide the belays for the kids and make use of the volunteer instructors). Most of them do not follow through, even after the training class and the availability of the volunteer instructors.

The Youth Hostel I mentioned (there are a couple others with programs in the Bay Area as well) runs summer programs for disadvantaged kids, where they camp out and do hikes. I cross paths with them on some of my hikes. I am often disappointed to hear the kids talking about how scary a short walk in the park is and how hard a 2 mile hike is, and even how uncomfortable it is to sleep in a tent on a cot (I know that some of these kids are sleeping on the floor at their homes in very crowded quarters).

Do I have the answer? No, I don't. At least some people are trying. But it isn't the economics that is the limiting factor.

July 30, 2014
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