Richard Louv spoke of young people suffering from “Nature Deficit Dis-order”, in his book ‘Last Child In The Woods’ commenting on the vast divide between todays young people and the world’s natural spaces. In his global campaign his aim is to introduce more young people to the educational and personal developmental benefits of emersing themselves in the Great Outdoors. Increasing scientific evidence is being published demonstrating that this ‘free’ and natural remedy which reduces modern day stress and anxiety supports the cause as the pace picks up in this Natural Revolution (Benefits of Nature: How Nature Helps Your Brain | Reader’s Digest)
Founder of TYF Adventure Andy Middleton from Pembrokeshire, an Outdoor Activist with a passion of changing the way in which we think, play and approach our symbiotic relationship with the outdoors recently guided Richard Parks, a new TV celebrity and formally a Welsh Rugby player, during a coasteering adventure. Andy during the day posed a question “how do we use the wild play in some of nature’s most beautiful places to inspire millions more people to shift the way they live to protect them for ever?”.
I think that both Richard’s and Andy’s philosophy is incredibly important to the health and well-being of our future living, but there is one question I came back to when thinking about the practicalities and strategies – how we achieve this? Introducing more ‘Vitamin N’ into our daily diet and being a Nature Guide may well be the answer, but as the old saying goes ‘you can take a horse…..’.
On a recent canoe trip down the awe-inspiring Wye valley, in its infant autumnal colours, it became apparent that the young people on the journey were not bathing in its radiance. Not curious at the detail in the way in which the river bubbled over the moss strewn rocks, they were thinking of the end of the journey, looking straight ahead, blinkered to the natural medicine that was passing them by. They drifted on past a Little Egret oblivious of the effort this African birds impressive journey had been to display its contrasting beauty against the backdrop of the British countryside.
As I too drifted behind the canoes I entered a meditation thinking about the strategies surrounding this problem that was visible in front of me. Yes, we can introduce the Outdoors, yes we can guide an individual into an incredible location, but fundamentally it is important to the sustainability of this Outdoor Revolution that we find a way of taking off the blinkers, maybe more than this, we pull off the ‘Blindfold’ that makes us ‘Nature-blind’.
I can sympathise to some extent with not being able to see things in their true light being colour-blind and having my own view of the world. I see one number on the colour chart others see nothing and vice-versa. I have had many journeys in the car with my wife when a loud “STOP’ interrupts the passage at traffic lights as I have not seen the red light. As one person sees the detail in a view others may not, so how do we get others to appreciate the wonders of the Outdoors? Is it just an age thing? Does empathy come with increasing years? Many years ago taking a climbing group to the sea cliffs at Porthclais where the view of the location is hidden from view until the final few metres, a teenager proclaimed looking out over St Brides Bay, “look at all that water…..and thats just the top!”. Is that empathy?
We need to take more time in this ever pressurised and digital world we live in to appreciate the surroundings and soak up the natural remedies. This could make our lives a healthier and happier one, making a more effective population and having a massive affect on the GDP world-wide. Noticing the small details and slowing our journey down, allowing the body to self-heal in the Outdoors is one step forwards in the right direction. We should be walking our pathway into the Outdoors with our eyes wide open and spending more time distracting ourselves with the Outdoors so we spend less time on our phones. This can only bring benefits. Our lifestyle today is one quick blur of so much information that we block out much of what is around us, like the journey down the river, the paddlers of the canoes did not notice the slightly submerged rock waiting beneath the surface until it abruptly stopped them mid-stream. Had their passage over that section been slower and more attentive they would have had been able to respond to altering their course. They had been instructed and informed of the skills to recognise the change in surface water indicating a submerged rock. However during their journey in this environment they had reverted to their default vision.
My thoughts are that all the combined efforts of the members of the Natural Revolution, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant make a valuable contribution and are much needed with this recent momentum. Every person who loves the Outdoors, works, lives, plays, teaches, guides and reads about it are all crucial to continue this movement. We need to change that other well known saying ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’. We need to gather advocates of Nature along this journey in order to succeed. If you just look out through the window and see it as a pane of glass, you are off course. Its a portal to the Outdoors beyond.
“We must teach our children
To smell the earth
To taste the rain
To touch the wind
To see things grow
To hear the sunrise
And night fall”