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  • Writer's picturedanielcoyle

How Survival Camps Can Save the World

"According to SLE studies, childhood positive experiences in nature are the main factor predicting pro-environmentalism later in life" Experiences in Nature and Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors

Apologies for the click bait title to this blog. But, if you are here, I am glad you are. There isn't really too much that really needs to be said. I can summarize the main point in a couple paragraphs. Here goes:

If you believe climate change is occurring and that it presents a problem for future generations you see also that today's young people will have an outsized say in how it all goes. If they care about the natural world and feel connected to it its an easy argument to make that they will work hard to support the health of the environment. Harder than if they only see it through the lens of their own well being, economic, health or otherwise. Given the well documented fact that today's children, on average, spending less time in the natural world than any previous generations they are at risk for caring less, not more about it (inmates spend more time outside than the average child). At risk for having less connection to it than any generation ever has. They will be left largely with their own self interest and empathy for other human centered interests to motivate their actions toward climate stabilization (for lack of a better word).

"With ongoing environmental degradation at local, regional, and global scales, people’s accepted thresholds for environmental conditions are continually being lowered. In the absence of past information or experience with historical conditions, members of each new generation accept the situation in which they were raised as being normal. This psychological and sociological phenomenon is termed shifting baseline syndrome (SBS), which is increasingly recognized as one of the fundamental obstacles to addressing a wide range of today’s global environmental issues." Shifting baseline syndrome: causes, consequences, and implications

Surely now you might see where I am going with this. Being in nature, whether through a Summer Camp or a family camping trip or a school field trip is a child's best chance of building an appreciation for and connection to nature for nature's sake. Not just as a resource they depend on pragmatically but as a source of some equally impactful intangibles. As an analogy people who feel connection to their partner generally are less likely to get divorced or break up. People who feel connection to the natural world are more likely to fight for it and make decisions that nurture and support it.

At camps and through programs such as the ones we run youth learn to engage with nature on its terms and not through technology, media or culture. They connect with what the natural world has to offer and see how that is unique and can't be gotten elsewhere. These experiences are critical in l forming a relationship with nature as a powerful and vulnerable resource. When they have unforgettable moments playing in the creek they build an allegiance to nature that will motivate them to save it in the future and protect it from the same forces that cause climate degradation. In this way it is not just conceptual or even just in their own pragmatic self interest but a, dare we say it, spiritual endeavor that has a meaning bigger than themselves.

Further Reading

Relevance of Connection to Nature in Fighting Climate Degradation

Impact/Condition of People Spending Less Time Outside

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Nathan Donnelly
Nathan Donnelly
May 10, 2021


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