At the end of the book “The birds at my table”, the author Darryl Jones mentions a phenomenon called the “extinction of experience.” The extinction of experience can be summarised by the loss of immersing yourself in nature, be it with wildlife watching, making mud pies or building tree forts, in this era of the digital age. As a 90’s kid, my childhood memories are filled with experiences of riding bikes around the neighbourhood all weekend with my friends, capturing yabbies and bringing them home to bite my mother’s fingers and raising tadpoles we stole from the wild with my next door neighbour. Reminiscing back on all the tree houses I built, pretend mountains I climbed and pure bonding with my friends and siblings over the privacy and intimacy of being alone in nature, made me realise how these experiences were so powerful and profoundly important in my life. These experiences were so pronounced in fact, that I based my whole career around the ability to keep on experiencing these experiences. (As you can tell by the content and theme of this blog.)
The phrase “extinction of experience” unexpectedly suck in my mind much longer than I read the words for as I struggle to understand the possibility of a generation who has never washed dirt out of their fingernails after a long mud pie making session, who has never fallen from a low branch while trying to climb a tree or has never felt the exhilaration of rolling down a grassy hill.
I remember when I was working in an ecotourism venture where families from all over the globe would come to stay on the beautiful farm style property with lakes, orchards, wildlife and lots of space to run around an explore. The most bewildering moments were meeting some of the children who came to stay who, for them, running around and exploring was a new phenomenon that they had never been exposed to. We had to in essence, show these kids how to be kids and let them know that they had free rein to be able to utilise all the resources that they discovered in their new environment.
One family in particular had flown in all the way from Tokyo, Japan and had grown up living in a dense city environment. Suddenly in quite the opposite surrounds, with large open spaces, flowering trees and fruits all around them, the I urged the kids to explore, create and get inspired. Walking to work the next day, a huge smile filled my face as I saw the most amazingly decorated tepee made from sticks in the front yard of their accommodation. Those kids had created an experience that they will remember for a long time and hopefully one which will shape the way they experience life into the future. Suddenly there were building blocks and toys all around them in this natural environment now they had uncovered that way of thinking.
I believe experiences can be manifested at any age, not just within a “childhood” as I feel that an essence of human-hood is to return back to a natural state in order to keep ownership of your sanity. For some, this can be a walk through the park with a dog, the pondering of a bird outside of your kitchen window or sitting on your porch with a glass of wine. Sometimes losing yourself and finding yourself are the same experience and often these instances occur in nature where you have time and peacefulness in order to make sense of the chaos of your mind.
Do I believe in the extinction of experiences? Yes and no. Yes technology and child safety means there are more restrictions in the free play of newer generations, yes, technology, busy schedules and modern lives do make it seem hard to prioritise time for experiencing nature and yes, Google is asked more questions than are pondered on a long stroll. But at the same time I honestly believe that humans are still a part of the animal kingdom on Earth. We still need to take time to re-connect with our world to discover what our role is on this planet, we still need to take time to think and explore and wonder because it is a huge part of silencing the chaos of the world we live in. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if people will eventually get addicted to the peace of nature as a break from being constantly being attached to devices, and maybe there will be a reoccurring surge of interest in losing ourselves in the world around us. Who knows? Maybe this is just a crazy fan theory.
My experiences with nature have shaped who I am today. They have lead me to a career in the conservation of global biodiversity, they have lead me to form incredible friendships, unique memories and most of all my experiences in nature have taught me more about myself and this world than any book, paper or documentary ever could. So passionately that I have compiled everything that nature has taught me in this very blog:
Teachings from the wilderness.