You Need To Get Out More

Bear at Lake Ekultna

Did someone say honey? (Photo credit: Douglas Brown)

It has been said that we, as a society, are “a long way from the farm.” As this is usually said by those annoying early-to-rise types who also say that by six a.m. “half the day is gone,” I’ve tended to discount it.

Lately however, I find myself agreeing with that statement more and more. I have seen grown adults turn green when they find out where eggs come from. I’ve heard anecdotal accounts of parents slathering their children with honey when they encounter bears on a camping trip — hoping to get a cute picture of a bear “kiss” or something.

Then there was the woman in Waco, Texas who got past several barriers in a zoo to be closer to the elephants, only to have one of the 6,000 pound beasts smack her with its trunk. I understand it hit her with its duffle bag too.

There are children in cities who don’t know about the whole cow-milk connection. This is odd considering that we still teach our kids about barnyard animals; even suburban toddlers know that pigs go ‘oink’ and sheep go ‘baa.’ It must be a terrible shock when they realize that Mary’s little lamb, is erm, on the table at Easter dinner.

Further evidence of a disconnect can be found at a website advertising, and I quote, “merchandise that helps bring [people] closer to nature in the comfort of their own home.” The flagship product is a line of DVDs showing nature scenes.

Now to be fair to the site, I’m sure there are a number of people who use the product to provide relaxing background visuals — to help them maintain sanity during the work week, or when they’re between hiking trips.

But for the other people who are buying the discs, I have to ask: Just how close to nature are you, honestly, if you want to experience it from the comfort of your own home? Real nature involves bugs bites, scratches, bruises and quite often encounters with bears looking for honey-glazed children. Real nature lovers know this and love it anyway. Scientists have yet to discover the gene responsible for this type of dementia.

Is this disconnect something we need to worry about? Well possibly it is. Without any real experiences of, or connection to, the land we live on, we no longer understand it. We already have groups of well-meaning weekend naturalists who want to preserve “cute wabbits” fighting against non-urbanites who consider them “varmints for target practice.” We also have a long track record of making major changes to the landscape, like redirecting entire rivers, before we have a good idea of the possible consequences.

A future of total disconnect might mean that people buy their SUVs not to go camping, but to drive out to a relatively quiet, smogged-over parking lot to watch their nature DVDs on the dashboard monitor. (Californians, always trend setters, are likely doing this now). Or worse, personal ads in the paper that say, “I like holding hands, snuggling, and watching people take long, sunset walks on a beach on my wide screen TV.”

Who do we have to blame for our detachment? There could be many culprits. One is the increasing urbanization of society. Another is consumer demand for tidy packages – so much so that the food we eat bears no resemblance to its original form. (Which is just as well — gutting and roasting your own meals every night is hell on the kitchen linoleum.) We might also blame purveyors of cute animal cartoons for completely distorting what real critters are like.

Personally, I blame the bears. In human conspiracies, the best way to find the perpetrators is to “follow the money.” In this case, just follow the honey — and who benefits most from having pre-sweetened, clueless campers delivered right to their caves?