Last month in the UK, 300 organizations including schools, play groups, Scout groups, businesses, conservationists, campaigners, farms, and others officially launched the Wild Network, a movement to help break kids away from growing up indoors in front of screens and to get them outside.
It’s already old news that our kids are losing touch with the outdoors at a staggering rate. Exposure like Richard Louv’s best selling book, Last Child in the Woods, that explores what he calls “nature-deficit disorder” is blowing the problem wide open. But even with the headlines, the books, and obvious connection between health and the outdoors, we’re not changing the trend. The Wild Network is the most ambitious collaborative effort yet to do just that.
Andy Simpson, chairman of the Wild Network, put is bluntly: "The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation."
The Wild Network’s opening salvo in their battle to get kids outside is a feature length documentary film, Project Wild Thing, which began a tour of 50 cinemas across the UK on October 25th.
Just watching the trailer for Project Wild Thing made me shudder; the picture painted by the film is horrifying, but it’s not a horror film, it’s a documentary about our kids. Here are a couple of attention-getting sound bites from the trailer:
“Technology is turning our children into glassy-eyed zombies.”
“Our children’s generation is going to be the first in history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.”
Producer David Bond calls the outdoors “the ultimate, free wonder product.” But for some reason parents aren’t buying it. Bond explains, “It’s not the kids don’t want to touch the frog or jump in the pond, it’s the adults that have said, ‘no’.”
Only one in five children between the ages of eight and 12 have a connection with nature and, on average, children in the UK spend four and a half hours in front of a screen. The rest of the modern world shows similar trends.
One goal of the Wild Network is to get kids outside for an extra half an hour of “wild time” each day. To put that in perspective, getting your kids outside for half an hour each day will only reduce their screen time by 10%.
I wasn’t able to download the film here in North America, but when it becomes available, it will be high on my list.
Meanwhile, we all need to do what we can to get our kids outdoors. To begin with, taking your kids on a dream trip works like magic for turning kids into lifelong outdoor enthusiasts, but what matters in the long run is turning the outdoors and nature into a normal part of your child's everyday life. It seems to hardly matter what activity kids do, so long as they do something outdoors almost every day.
The Wild Network is essentially a marketing agency representing nature, giving parents ideas and resources for easy, and often free, access to natural areas: be it landscaping your own backyard, local parks, simple play areas or other family recreation resources.
In some ways, writing about this on the Heli-Ski Blog feels a little like preaching to the choir. We all love the outdoors. But are we giving our kids the same opportunity to be outside that we had when we were young - or that our kids deserve? And do we have the same conviction to get kids away from their screens as we do to direct our children away from other aspects of an unhealthy lifestyle? Or are we buying healthy food for our kids, sending them to good schools, and then accidentally doing them a huge disservice by helping them spend their childhood in front of a screen?
Unfortunately, it seems that in trying to protect our children from the dangers of the world, we’re creating another monster and keeping them inside a bit (ok, a lot) too much. And the powerful marketing machine behind electronics does nothing but make it easier for our kids to be outdoors less, get less exercise, socialize less and be less healthy.
The Wild Network is nature’s first public relations firm. It’s about time. Bring it across the Pond, please!
Photos of kids unplugged at a local playgound, and far from the screen with CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures by Topher Donahue.
Even with the prevalence of digital capture, it is only every once in a while that we see something entirely unprecedented.
Growing up in the mountains, I always felt like geologic change was real, but not the kind of thing that happened in human time. I was in awe of how glaciers grew and receded, carving the mountains into the seductive shapes that inspires us to learn to ski and climb; but I always believed that I wouldn’t live long enough to really see the changes.
How wrong I was! Just a decade of working with CMH Heli-Skiing has been enough to see dramatic changes in the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies. During the same time, geologic change seems to be accelerating in many parts of the world, and with the phenomenon reaching beyond the niche circles of skiers and mountaineers, people are aiming cameras and instruments at our planet in new ways.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this change being captured "on film" is the Chasing Ice project. By using time-lapse methods the team, led by photographer James Balog, set out to capture geologic change in a human time frame.
The results, starting with a National Geographic Magazine assignment in 2005, have received global attention. The project has continued, and with cameras trained on galciers all over the globe, perhaps it is not suprising that something extraordinary would be revealed. Recently, a team of photographers in Greenland captured something that defies all our previous assumptions about geologic change.
While shooting a tongue of glacier that has receded as much in the past ten years as in the previous 100, they stumbled into filming the largest glacier calving that has ever been captured on film. This is not a time-lapse, but instead a city-sized section of glacier falling into the sea in little over an hour:
This video clip is perhaps the most stunning thing I’ve ever seen on film. It is part of the film “Chasing Ice” which is showing in North America and the UK during 2013.
Thankfully, here at CMH Heli-Skiing, we still have a vast wonderland of safe and skiable glaciers positioned right next to epic tree skiing; but I gotta wonder; will my grandkids be able to ski these glaciers too?
CMH has teamed up with K2 Skis and Poorboyz Productions to capture some of the best athletes skiing the best terrain in the world. That, combined with the the winter storm that has dumped over four feet of snow in the last week, has created a truly "Perfect Storm" for a legendary shoot.
Seth Morrison Getting Deep on "Mugwump" - CMH K2
With the likes of Seth Morrison, Sean Pettit, Andy Mahre, and Collin Collins, we knew we were in for a treat.
The first day, we headed to an area that guide Patrick Baird took our "Steep Shots and Pillow Drops" two days prior. With 50cm new snow since the last skiers were there, the pros had a wicked time selecting lines and shredding.
At the end of the day Monday, Pettit came out of a pillow line saying "That landing was NECK DEEP!" It started snowing last Saturday, and it is still coming down 4 days later!
You might think that because we are up here with one group of professional skiers exclusively using one Bell 212, we have been doing a LOT of skiing. Wrong. Tuesday, we accomplished 5 runs in 5 and a half hours. Well under half of what any average group on any CMH trip would accomplish. My respect for these athletes has grown exponentially. The ability to ski the lines they do on a count down of 10 seconds after not moving for 20 minutes is truly amazing.
I can't wait to see the finished films that come out of this week. Stay tuned next week for another update!
Sean Pettit on "Square head" CMH K2
Photos: John Entwistle