The more you know about the natural world, the more interesting the world becomes.
It was a simple idea that I picked up from a book. As the story went, a man was on his back porch during an outdoor lunch making bird calls, calling to a few different birds in particular. He had only learned these bird calls but knew enough to tell everyone at the table about them. Only he tuned into their calls as they rang out around him and was fascinated. The more you know about the natural world, the more interesting the world becomes.
The pressures of urbanization today are difficult to combat. More and more folks are moving away from their old farms into the cities where rents continue to skyrocket and schools expand at the waistline but with no room to budge. The trend is global. Across the way in China, the government is working to move 250 million rural citizens into the city.
250 million. That’s ¾ the population of the United States.
As you would guess, this kind of metro migration complicates the connection between humans and nature. It’s like being so buried in a ball pit 100 feet deep that you can’t see the light of day. Now you’re suffocating in the place you thought would be so fun.
Unfortunately this term exists. More unfortunately, it can be applied a sweeping population of people that simply don’t experience the world we inhabit enough. Even though the city that provides our bar, our store, and our favorite hot pot restaurant is all, in a convoluted way, made from the Earth, walking on the sidewalk is not a walk within nature, obviously.
The term “nature deficit disorder” was first put into play by psychologist, Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods. There he describes the effects (detrimental) of restricting a child’s exposure to nature during his or her developmental years, and also how removing an adult from nature an adult could deeply disrupt his or her physical and emotional health. We are, after all, beings in a complex biological system. To think we can create something better than the world that keeps us alive is a little arrogant, no?
There is a positive twist to this whole story, however. We have solutions.
In fact, one of Louv’s solutions is simple–to organize within your neighborhood a weekly meet-up with your neighbors at the local park for a walk, say, on Saturday.
On that note, what if instead of a walk, you met up with your friends and neighbors on the mountain every Saturday? Depending on where you live, this could be a very easy reality.
The beauty of urban areas of the West like Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco, is that you really can have the best of both worlds. While populations continue to skyrocket in these cities, there is still access to the mountains, which means access to skiing and riding. In other words, it’s a connection to nature.
Each time I’m on the mountain I have an almost ethereal experience that keeps me coming back. The car horns fade, deadlines and long lines dissolve, and the hubbub of the city with your friends and family with all their planned activities will be available tomorrow. The most beneficial effect of skiing and boarding is elemental–it goes beyond the thrill or the challenge and brings us back to the building blocks of our world. The trees, the snow, the wind–they all dance around you to create that unforgettable experience because skiing and riding is more than just sliding on snow. You can slide on snow indoors in Dubai, but aren’t we missing the point there?