What do an iPad and outdoor exercise have in common?
Very little, according to a recent lecture I attended on how the predominance of Wi-Fi devices were turning a generation into high-frequency couch potatoes.
Until now. Our world just changed for the better on July 17, when Pokémon Go launched. Enter a new age of Wi-Fied hyperactive youngsters who can’t wait to get outside. Apparently it is now impossible for parents to keep their kids from charging off in search of the next coveted Pokémon character.
My daughter “complains” her teenager son now insists they walk the dog! Together! Daily! This has nothing to do with the dog of course, but for a mother, any excuse to spend time with her teenage son, especially outdoors, is welcome.
So there you have it. The new world order. The blending of the hi-tech world and a good old-fashioned walk outdoors. One more in a series of cultural transformations which captures the imagination of our Twitter-soaked world every six months or so.
Remember geocaching? It was the precursor to Pokémon Go and was very big a few years back. My wife Patricia and I had a ton of fun tracking down caches in fields and forests during our last trip in Europe with my son and his wife. Before he married an avid geocacher, Steven would never have ventured outside except to drive to the corner 7-Eleven. Now he and his outdoor-loving wife hike for hours seeking securely hidden little tupperware treasures, with the help of their GPS and website clues. Geocaching is no longer trending, but still worth pursuing: www.geocaching.com.
This fickle attachment of the Twitter generation to outdoors and nature does raise the questions, “Are the real treasures of nature still being missed? Is there a possibility that we can appreciate the outdoors without relying on a gadget or motorized transport or some other gimmicky game?” Now here’s a leap. How about getting outdoors, walking down a wooded trail with no intended destination, no Wi-Fi access or GPS signal, with nothing to direct our path or determine our destination but our sense of adventure and wonder?
Richard Louv, author of the award-winning book Last Child in the Woods, writes that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. He directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. He calls it “nature deficit disorder.”
This does not mean that we all need to move to the country to maintain mental health or a healthy lifestyle. What it does mean is that we need to make an effort to include nature as part of our daily routine, part of a balanced nature diet. This can start right in our backyard with growing a garden or hosting birdhouses or bee hotels, or even chicken roosts.
We recently returned from a two week trip through British Columbia to visit family and were intrigued at the different approaches each took to yards and gardens. My daughter lives in a housing co-op which has their entire front yard turned into herbs and vegetables—very messy but productive. My sister has a neatly manicured lawn and flower bed. My one brother is growing his first garden and tickled at his morning adventure of picking newly-ripened tomatoes and figs. My older brother has a virtual barnyard with roaming dogs and cats and free-range chickens. For our part, we return home to a jungle of tomatoes, squash, beans, beets, potatoes, kale, and flower beds running wild.
It may be then that getting your nature nutrients has less to do with chasing down another Pokémon pikachu than putting down your Wi-Fi gadget and picking up a shovel.
Header Image: Father and daughter spend bonding time at Mount Robson. Credit: Supplied