As families gather together to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, the occasion provides a most appropriate opportunity to take stock of the past.
There is no doubt that Americans are adventurers, our ancestors, who ventured across the oceans to settle these, once wild lands, have imbibed us with this spirit.
It is difficult to imagine the extent of their journey, especially in this current ‘instant era,’ where needs can be satisfied or goods are available, “on credit, toll free, 24/7, with free shipping.”
Our current patterns of existence have become so comfortable and so convenient that it is impossible to imagine the difficulties our ancestors encountered, when they first disembarked in Plymouth, on a cold November morning in 1620.
The land was much rougher at the time, and the times were much tougher. Accordingly, the people were appropriately seasoned to such hardships, and they learned how to coexist with nature, and how to utilize the bounty it provides.
They couldn't receive weather updates over the television, or text a message home on some, miniature handheld contraption.
Instead, they understood natural patterns, and they learned how to live off the land. It was not an instant accomplishment, and the effort continues to be part of an ongoing process.
By comparison, modern day society has become soft, and relatively clueless to nature's signals. It is not surprising, for as much as we appreciate nature, we also strive for comfort. We may want to rough it, but we prefer to rough it easy.
Unfortunately, this comfort loving train of thought has been embraced by the younger generation, whose spirit of adventure is now largely satisfied by the click of a button on a search engine.
The trials and tribulations of travel have largely been removed, as modern day society has largely pasteurized our spirit of adventure, and homogenized the nature of our travels.
Although we may still be adventurers, at heart, our increasingly hectic lives no longer provides us with opportunities to truly enjoy the special places where we can find both recreation and solitude.
It is also disturbing to discover how much further removed the next generation is from the land.
As USA Today reported, “The fundamental nature of childhood has changed in a single generation. The unstructured outdoor childhood has all but vanished. Today, childhood is spent mostly indoors.”
Despite the convenience of instant communications, today’s children are further removed from the land than all of the previous generations.
This detachment has been linked to a lack of regular exercise, increases in childhood obesity, myopia, and a host of other maladies.
Childhood obesity has doubled over the past 30 years for preschoolers and adolescents, and more than tripled for children aged 6-11.
Although the average American kid can recognize over 1,000 corporate logos by the age of 10, they can’t identify 10 animals, plants or trees in their own backyard.
In the 1970’s, over 70 percent of kids walked or biked to school, currently less than 20 percent of kids walk or bike to school today.
Children on average participate in just 30 minutes of unregulated time outdoors per week; however, their weekly electronic media exposure totals nearly 45 hours a week.
The spirit of discovery is instilled in every child, and if properly nourished, it will provide a lifelong sense of discovery and interest.
On a local level, schools and communities must do more to foster this innate sense of adventure and discovery, and parents can help this process by tapping into the region’s nearly limitless resources for natural recreational opportunity.
Across rural America, our children must be well versed in the opportunities for positive natural entertainment, for without such skills, the lure of a host of negative recreational opportunities will be difficult to ignore.
In the more urban, and suburban areas, there is often a wide range of recreational options available for children, ranging from ballparks to recreation centers, and from movie theatres to malls, to organized sports leagues. With a readily available host of options, there is usually something for a kid to do.
However, in rural settings, the list of “organized recreational options” is quite limited. Country kids must learn to make their own fun, and as a result, any kid that lacks the basic fundamentals for outdoor travel and recreation is severely disadvantaged.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org