There has been a great amount of coverage during the past two weeks about figures released by the US Forest Service showing visits to the nation’s national forests is off 13% over the past five years. When combined with the recent news that our children are becoming more sedentary and spending less time outdoors, it paints a rather bleak future for us as a people, and for our willingness to place value on the environment.
This trend hasn’t gone unnoticed by the government and private organizations, which have initiated programs designed to reignite our children’s interest in the outdoors. Some of these programs, like the Teddy Project, seek to reach children in the home with animated cartoons and multimedia content. Others, like Kids in the Woods, bring school-aged children into the outdoors to participate in various educational projects.
That there is some merit to programs like this cannot be questioned, but is targeting the children really going to reverse these trends? It doesn’t matter how excited little Johnny and Jonnie are about the outdoors if mom and dad aren’t on board. After all, TV and video games are pretty easy, from a parental involvement standpoint, compared to a weekend of camping and hiking.
It’s not the kids, it’s us: the parents, who need to reevaluate our priorities and stop mortgaging our children’s future on electronic stimuli. If you want to get the children back into the woods, then first get the parents back.