Thursday, February 14, 2008

Americans spending less time in nature

I've been couped up at home these last few weeks working on submissions and then being sick. I've been going back to the Yellowstone Newspaper website for a couple of reasons. I am hoping some year that we get to make a winter visit to Yellowstone. So I was interested in hearing what the winter visitors were talking about. I also have been working photos from last year, so as I worked my Yellowstone photos my thoughts were going in that direction anyway.

One of the articles that caught my attention was: NPR's John Nelson's "Americans Spending Less Time in Nature. I've seen a similar article talking about fewer visits in our national parks. I think this is a disturbing trend for many reasons.

I believe that as humans we have spiritual needs that are tied with nature. The world around us is grand, big, diverse, and amazingly beautiful and complex. Although sometimes we try to tame or conquer forces of nature, they inevitably prove to be stronger and more powerful than mankind's efforts to tame them. Our bodies need sunlight not only for the Vitamin D but also because the sun's rays increase our seratonin levels giving our spirits a positive boost.

But in today's world, many things keep us indoors. Most of us have to work in offices, many in small cubicles far from any windows. Even when we get off work, there is much to explore on our computers, the TV, or the many video games. So we don't get enough exercise, certainly not enough fresh air, nor do our spirits get fed by a beautiful sunset, a babbling creek, the flutelike notes of a songbird, or the energy of a thunderstorm.

I was a Girl Scout both as a girl and as an adult. And while camping is still part of the Girl Scout way, fewer and fewer troops actually practice those outdoor skills. It takes time and effort to get ready for a camping trip, to get the certifications, and to get willing parent volunteers to go with you. I was lucky, my girls spent time in the outdoors. They learned how to build a fire and cook over it. We saw owls fly in at an evening campfire program at a local state park.

One of my goals as a nature photographer is to produce images that will encourage people to step away from their computers, their TV shows, and their video games. I want to capture the beauty I see in such a way that others will want to get up early to see the sunrise or stay out to see the sunset hues. Even in the city, nature is all around us. I want people to notice the natural world on their way to work. I want to inspire people to take time and spend a day or a week enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds us. Because I think humans have an inner need for the spiritual feeding that can occur when you are in the natural world - that touch of God's hand, his amazing handiwork calls us to worship and appreciate something we as humans can't create.

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