Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The forgotten life.
What does it say about us when one generation pity's the next?
Oh sure, our children's living standards are higher than ours as their lives are filled with flashy techno-gadgetry. Damn, look at the picture above, even aborigines nowadays have camcorders!!!But I am sure, like me, you also fear that our children's experience with nature is thinner, more constricted, and less fulfilling than our own.
Maybe many of you who had paid a visit to your childhood homes also has a heartbreaking experience, because you found out that your connection to the land around it has been broken. If I am not wrong, malls are filling in the vacant lots and woodlands where you used to play, also rivers and streams are channelized, and barren, and the lake sides, and mountains are spotted with trophy homes and locked gates.
It is sad, because by losing contact with the natural world we are losing something precious. In a way, we are losing part of what it means to be human. I grew up in the province, in the countryside, and I was dependent on nature's rhythm and to other living things. I learned and grew by climbing trees, catching tadpoles, picking flowers, making mud pies, hiding under hedges. Playing outside every evening until called home by parents and falling darkness, I develop a sense of my human community as part of the wider, natural world.
My kids in contrast, grew up in the city and I lament the fact that they seem to have no special connection to the outdoors. And how could they be expected to make one? They never have a chance to find the hole behind the log where they can hide their special stuff, or the damp spot in the meadow where the butterflies swarm in the summer.
With the rapid growth in commercialism, it's rarer and rarer for kids to have access to fields or streams or woodlots or even decent city parks, so instead of joyfully playing about outside they're offered a physically safe world of video games and television. As a result, nature and place are losing out to the virtual world. Who needs mud puddles when your computer can provide you with dozens of imaginary planets full of gory combat with scary monsters?
But computer screens don't teach our kids how to cooperate with their friends to get a boost up to that next tree climb, to hop nimbly from rock to rock, or reveal the mystery of tadpoles turning into frogs. Yes, of course, television still has its nature shows - mostly animals eating each other these days, but its primary lesson is about consumerism.
As a parent we should teach our kids to be more than consumers. If we can get them out in nature, they might find that they love the real world even more than they love electronic games or visits to the mall.
We all owe it to our kids to make it possible for them to experience the same happy connection that we have experienced with the natural world. That doesn't necessarily mean an ambitious backpack through alpine meadows or watching a mighty whale breaching at sea - it can be as simple as observing a garter snake in the grass or the flight of a butterfly.
Nature's still all around us, and who knows? The Earth-defender of tomorrow could be your child.