I generally don’t care much for “reality” TV shows, but I recently caught a small portion of one that really shook me up. This program was about a family that for whatever reason had been moved from their city home to a place in the country. Their teenage daughter claimed she could not get a good night’s sleep because she was afraid. At this point I changed the channel looking for better entertainment but I could not help but ponder the plight of this girl. Afraid of what, exactly? Seemed to me that she may be guilty of watching one too many haunted house movies, or possibly it was just the fear of the unknown.
The true reality of this is that the girl was much safer from harm than she realized. Statistics show that people are much more likely to fall victim to crime or injury in a crowded city rather than the relative peace and quiet of a rural setting. In fact, the local shopping mall would be one of the most likely places for a naïve young person to get into trouble. In spite of this fact I have yet to hear of any young person being afraid of hanging out in the mall. I am well aware of how disconnected from Nature my own generation has become but I fear the coming generation will take this to a new level.
We can easily get a grasp on our disassociation with Nature simply by listening to day to day conversations or topics of interest in the news media. How often do we hear folks complain about the weather? When it is hot and dry, we hope for rain but just as soon as a good rainy spell comes along we hear people say they wish it would stop. Most of us are almost never happy with the outdoor environment.
Seems nowadays nearly everyone has some chronic illness or allergy so healthcare is always a popular subject. Just take note of how many ads you see or hear each day that are directed at us from drug companies, doctors, and hospitals. Some people are downright fearful of any insect or wild animal. Others are afraid of a mere speck of dirt because it contains “germs.”
All these different phobias and illnesses are so common in our society that we give them names. But I ask you, who among us could not be diagnosed as being a bit paranoid, bi-polar, or obsessive-compulsive? Whose blood pressure doesn’t become elevated in the right circumstance? Which one of us can choose to eat too much of something and not have issues with digestion or some metabolic process? To be sure, I get a little ADD (or is it ADHD??) when someone goes on and on with their personal views on politics…..gimme a break!!
Those of us who can afford it have many creature comforts. We are air conditioned, entertained, and overfed. We have lost touch with the natural world and the daily struggle for survival. We owe this privilege mainly to oil, coal, and natural gas which are collectively called fossil fuels. While there are still those who argue that these ancient forms of organic matter exist in adequate quantities, others state that we have already surpassed peak oil production. Regardless of which view you may choose to believe there are two facts which are irrefutable.
Most important is the fact that burning fossil fuels has led to an overload of carbon based pollution in the atmosphere and related petrochemical pollutants in our soil and water. The effects of this can be seen and measured everywhere on the planet although the greatest concentrations are found in densely populated areas and in the runoff that comes from those areas. Most, if not all, ecosystems are presently in a state of decline. Eventually Nature will balance this out and Life will prevail. Will mankind choose to swing the scales back in the right direction or choose to continue down this dead end road? That choice will affect us all. It already has.
Second, and in spite of all this wealth and productivity that we have gained from fossil fuels, is that those of us who are not part of the privileged few are suffering. War, poverty, disease, and starvation are still on the rise in this world where mankind seeks to control Nature for his own benefit. Ironically, it is in the arena of politics and religion that we debate our moral goals and issues, yet it is exactly those same honorable institutions that wind up causing much of the injustice. We each seem to think the other folks should adopt our particular set of rules or moral conduct. In reality, as long as any of us are exploited, made to starve, or discriminated against for any reason, then we have failed collectively.
All world leaders claim to rule for the greater good. All religions teach tolerance and kindness toward others. All people share the same basic needs. The science of genetics has apparently proven that we all share common ancestry. So why can’t we acknowledge these facts and work together? “Think globally, act locally,” is truly a great slogan for our time. “One planet, one chance” is another.
If you are one of those that cannot enjoy the great outdoors due to allergies or illness then you have my sympathy. But you must understand that all things have a place in Nature. Bees do not intend to sting people. This is only a defense mechanism albeit a fairly potent one. However, bees are so vitally important as a pollinator that without them the human race would surely diminish or perish altogether.
If you are one that has a phobia regarding insects in general, bats, snakes, or any other wild creature, then I would say that you, like the young girl on the TV, are in dire need of an education. Once we understand how things work then our fears will subside. Certainly our greatest concern should not be what Nature can do to us but rather what we in our selfish pursuits have done to Nature.
In defense of the current generation of young people, there is a common thread of wisdom you will hear from them. That is we all share this one planet and that this planet has limited resources. Although there are many in my generation and countless others from every previous generation who have realized this, we have so far only managed to slowly bring some attention to inevitable plunder of our most precious gifts. In our children’s eyes, we have fallen short. We could have or should have done more. I remember having said the same thing to my own parents.
If mankind ever manages once again to live sustainably and comfortably within the limits provided by Nature, it could or should begin with us but not fully realized for generations to come. I just hope there are enough young people out there that are not afraid to spend a night or two in the boondocks. Please get your kids and grandkids disconnected from their electronic gadgets long enough to make sure they are connected ……..with Nature!!