Outdoor Afro friend Audrey Peterman challenges us in her latest blog to rethink our relationship to nature in terms of our ability to survive natural disaster. Read on:
Among the glaring lessons we should learn from Hurricane Sandy is that our technology-focused lifestyles depend absolutely and completely on one thing – electricity. I often marvel about this, since electricity is extremely vulnerable. One major solar flare or a catastrophic “unnatural” disaster such as Sandy, and a sustained lack of electricity could knock us back to the Stone Age in weeks.
The major problem with this is – the majority of us seem to be completely unaware! Sleep walking! And as we text and tweet and tumble our way through our days, we assume that any loss of power is a temporary inconvenience that will soon be fixed so that we can go back to our mind-numbing pastimes.
But what if it took a month to get the power back? Could you build a fire outdoors and prepare something to eat? Do you know how to purify water to drink? Would you have the means to keep a light burning in your home at night?
These might seem like rhetorical questions, off the chart for someone living in the United States of America. But just ask the people in Atlantic City or West Virginia who have been devastated by fire, flood and snow if they EVER thought that they could face what they experienced this week, and the answer might be sobering.
Not long ago I was part of a meeting sparked by Richard Louv, strategizing how to get children back outside to play and explore n nature. Louv’s book, (Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, 2005) had shown that children’s mental and physical health were suffering as a result of being housebound, tethered to electronic instruments.
One member of the group suggested that we might actually need to teach children how to play in nature, as this generation may not know how. At that moment I felt a chill go through me. I thought, “What can it mean when a species that is dependent on nature has become so removed from it that our offspring do not even know it exists? Or how to interact with it?”
Imagine if we needed to rely TOTALLY on nature, without being able to flip a switch and change cold to heat, or press a few buttons and get help from the world! I do not think it is an overstatement to say, “Sandy is a precursor of things to come, and we’d better get started preparing ourselves.”
Check out a wilderness survival course or other basic course that helps you navigate when the street signs are gone, and electronics are kaput. I’m going to check with my friends at REI to suggest that if they don’t already have a course designed to help people become self-sufficient without electricity, they should immediately institute one.
The time to prepare is BEFORE an emergency. Just ask the people suffering through Sandy!
(Audrey Peterman is a national-award winning environmentalist and the author of the new book. “Our True Nature: Finding A Zest for Life in the National Park System)