Pin It
Favorite

Tuning Out Nature 

by JEFF OSGOOD & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & Y & lt;/span & ou may have heard the news: Fewer Americans are venturing into anything that resembles the outdoors. According to a new Nature Conservancy study, the number of visitors to state and national parks is declining, and fewer people are hunting, fishing or going camping.





Why are people trading in their hiking boots for slippers? The study's authors, Oliver Pergams of the University of Illinois-Chicago and Patricia Zaradic of the Environmental Leadership Program, say the culprits are high oil prices and a newly coined word, "videophilia," which translates to a love of electronic media, namely the Internet, television and movies. The two researchers say that high gas prices and the siren's call of the computer and television can account for 97.5 percent of the decline in visits to national parks.





Apparently, any yearning to visit a wild place or national park can be assuaged by watching a steady stream of television shows -- especially now that entire networks devote themselves to wildlife and outdoor recreation. Why go searching the Rocky Mountains for the sight of a bighorn sheep, marmot or a pika when you can tune into an episode of Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor to get your critter fix? There's even something for the homebound survivalist: Discovery Channel's Survivor Man and Man vs. Wild offer dueling treks into the perilous wild.


We can also choose to commune with nature through the safety of our personal and workplace computers. Take a peek at any computer screen saver or desktop image, and you'll likely find a serene waterfall, a reclining cougar or an Ansel Adams photograph of a snowcapped mountain range. Forget mountaineering: Websites offer 24-hour, live streaming images of Everest Base Camp. And for animal voyeurs, there's everything from Yellowstone wolf cams to manatee cams.





When millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett's plane went missing in September 2007, friends and family decided to employ the public in the search. Web-surfers could pull up satellite images of the Nevada-California wilderness search area, scan the terrain for wreckage of Fossett's plane and report any findings via e-mail. Reportedly, thousands enjoyed the thrill of the hunt while basking in the warm glow of their computer monitor. This combined getting out in nature (virtually, at least) and a good cause, too.





Safety is key, since wild places can be scary. Hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, volcanoes, earthquakes and avalanches rage out of the television set from all over the world, and a week doesn't go by without a hapless hiker going missing or some man-eating predator out marauding. This live video, flashy graphic, full-color manipulation must be convincing, as more and more of us conclude that we'd be better off staying home. The manipulation is more subtle but no less pervasive in the print media, too. A typical story about the search for Fossett describes the Nevada mountains as "desolate" and "jagged"; the landscape "savage" and "inhospitable." Over time, the media construct a reality for us that's so dangerous we'd best leave these places alone.





If media haven't scared you into staying out of a national park or wilderness, at the least it has told you it's expensive to suit up for it. Not long ago, there wasn't much of an activity-segmented outdoor apparel market. Before Lycra, fleece and sweat-wicking socks, hikers, mountain climbers and other outdoorsy types made do with wool, canvas, recycled military gear and old-fashioned rain slickers. In the era of REI and mega-stores, we've been sold on the notion that we must be properly outfitted, decked head to toe with quick-dry, ultra-lightweight, reversible, Gore-Tex-infused apparel. Backpacks boast space-age design, and side pockets are legion. Let's not forget the gadgetry, for that bottomless backpack has plenty of room for an iPod, water bladder and mouth tube, water purifier, cellular phone and a GPS unit for finding your way back to your sports rack-crowned SUV. It must be true: You've got to get the gear if you want to play.





So why aren't people headed outdoors? The answer is simple: It's easier to stay home and fiddle with that remote or mouse. It's really too bad though, because the West's backcountry can't be televised; it must be experienced. Tube viewers really don't know what they're missing.





Jeff Osgood is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He lives in Niwot, Colo., where he's a freelance writer and stay-at-home father of four.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Age of Zaycon
  • Age of Zaycon

    Spokane Valley's Zaycon Fresh found a way to make millions selling meat — and now it's trying to make a lot more
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • Hazy Days of Summer
  • Hazy Days of Summer

    Smoke blankets the region; plus, Patty Murray on the proposed Iran deal
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • Brick by Brick
  • Brick by Brick

    Development continues in downtown Spokane; here are some construction projects that could change the city's urban core
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Saving Seeds: A Seed Library Event

Saving Seeds: A Seed Library Event @ Hillyard Library

Tue., Sept. 1, 6:30 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015
  • 'Flip of a Coin'

    A Spokane Valley deputy trained to spot stoned and drunk drivers is wrong nearly as often as he is right, blood tests from drivers show
    • Aug 19, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


marijuana


Comment


Publisher's Note


BUSINESS


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation