Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Growing Alienation in Society

On Saturday I went to listen to Richard Louvs, author of Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, talk last Saturday at the Victoria Conference Centre. Much of his talk resonated with me strongly. I have been concerned and worried about the disconnection in our society from the natural world, from a world were it is not all dominated by what it is possible for human comfort.

I have my boys in Scouting so that they do will grow up camping, that they will do works to make our world a better place and so that they will not fear the outside. I see the alienation of the outside among so many people now. There is a tangible fear of the outdoors and of all animals in people.

My hope is that all the boys will have the skills at age 15 or 16 to be able to look after themselves in the wilderness if something happens. I also want them to have the confidence to be able to undertake real adventures as young men. With that confidence comes a respect for the power of the wilderness.

Building a shelter to survive the night and make a fire are skills that every person should know, but these days less than 5% of people can do it. I know that there are a lot of people out there who think this is no longer something important to know, they are distainful of the need to know this. But to learn it takes so little that only a fool would not try and learn how to survive a night in the wilderness.

I also raise chickens so that the boys will see where food comes from. The chickens will also instill some thrift in the boys, it is cheaper to keep chickens than to go to the store and buy eggs. Meanwhile in Vancouver there is a strong backlash against people keeping chickens. The agruements against the keeping of chickens are all fear or disgust based, they are responses coming from alienation from alienation.

My children know that chickens shit, that they are dumb birds. They also know that the omletter they have from breakfast is from their yard and their chickens. They know the feeling of picking up an egg still warm from being laid. They can see the weird habits the birds have.

Someday they are also going to have kill these birds when they reach the end of their lives. Our society expresses alienation with animals by anthropomorphizing them. Much of our food comes from animals that we eat, being squeamish about killing them yourself is a complete disconnection from life, it is alienation extended to the point of mental illness.

They will never in their life look at a dozen eggs and not have an emotional and intellectual connection to where this food has come from and what it takes for those eggs to be in their hands. They will know that chickens lived and died so that those eggs could be laid.

I would like to hunt with them as well. They need to know the process involved to get meat, they need to know that killing animals is part of how we eat and ethically you have to be able to kill to be able eat meat.

The funny thing is that the most alienated and disconnected people tend to be urban dwelling, univiesty educated professionals. It is very clear to me that the highest density neighbourhoods in Vancouver are the ones with the people most alienated from the natural world. The alienation is primarily expressed in sarcasm, disgust, and being dismissive.

The human soul requires a connection to other people, to a society, but it also requires a connection to the seasons and the natural world. The urban people have become disconnected on many levels from what it is to be a human being.

Knowing seasons means we know what foods in our stores are fresh and local. People that shop for produce at places like Save-On-Foods, Costco or Safeway live in a world that is disconnected from seasons, they buy without thought to where and when or even flavour.

Knowing seasons means being in touch with the cycles of a year and being able to mark and note the passing of year. Stores and society do a better job of promoting Valentines Day, Christmas, Halloween and other shopping events than spring, summer, fall and winter.

People need to go out and hike in all weathers and at all times of the year. Urban people need to go camping on a regular basis to reconnect to something real and ageless. Our schools need to take the kids into nature on a regular basis. The human soul needs to be in the sort of places that our ancestors lived in 200, 2000 and 20 000 years ago. Our human soul requires us to know the ageless and ongoing power of the world outside of what we build for our comfort.

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