What worries me most about the continued frequency of technology’s presence in the wilderness is that we are failing to ensure that future generations are connected with the wilderness. If our children and grandchildren are unable to feel that connection, who will fully understand the need to protect our wilderness areas? When I am hiking, skiing or backpacking, I let all of my “cares drop away like autumn leaves,” to quote John Muir. I don’t think about my GPS coordinates, I don’t think about my phone (which sometimes nearly gives me a heart attack when I forget to turn it off), and I certainly don’t think about any other form of technology. I don’t think of much at all. I am balanced and at peace; connected to the trees, the soil, and whatever animal that happens by.
I spent my childhood outdoors. I have few memories of being inside at all. My brother and I, at a quite young age, roamed through the back woods without any adult present and certainly without a cell phone to use if we got in a fix. Children now are over-protected (including mine). I think this is primarily due to the massive amount of media coverage we are exposed to, bringing us every horrible story that occurs. The truth is that children are no more in danger than they were 30 years ago when I was playing free of my parents’ watchful eyes. We are becoming so disconnected with nature that I fear nothing will be done to prevent us from further assaulting our environment. You cannot learn about nature by sitting in front of a screen using only two of your senses.
How do we tell our children how damaging their excessive use of various media devices can be when they can’t see the far-reaching results? Many adults aren’t even aware of the problems with our over-use of devices. I once saw a video game in which the player creates and cares for a garden. Pushing a few buttons to make plants grow is nothing remotely resembling what it feels like to sink your hands into the soil and smell the earth as you ready a garden for planting. And maybe if you are good at it (or lucky) you get a bounty of vegetables or fruits that taste amazing. You can’t eat virtual veggies.
I’ve veered a little off topic, but I can’t help contemplating the precariousness of our future on this planet when I see a hiker zoom by with headphones on. Any real scientist (even those of us with hope) knows that we are in a bit of trouble. Here in Vermont we are fairly isolated from environmental issues, but there are places around the world that are already suffering from a slew of problems related to human interference with nature. I am certainly not without fault; I drive too much, I use Facebook, and I have an iPhone. If all of us spend less time looking at screens and more time working toward living as a part of nature, as opposed to apart from nature, our species might have a chance of living longer on this magnificent planet.