Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Have you been to Electrolandia?



I'm not too terribly surprised by this study. Are you? How do you think we can get more kids interested and involved with nature and birding for the next generation of stewards in such a critical time as ours? Sure, there are some wonderful youth nature/birding programs around the country but I guess it just isn't cool to be into the environment and nature when you're a teenager. I know of at least one teen birder who concealed his passion from his non-birding friends. I think back to my youth and remember neighbor kids laughing at me as I walked across the street carrying my butterfly net and collecting jar. Yeah, that's right...I was definitely not cool, but entering the field seemed very natural and right to me...even more so today. But naturally, some degree of heckling continues. This past spring a man in a truck yelled "tree hugger!" at me while was I crossing Park Street entering the western stream corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

Look at these photographs taken yesterday at Pheasant Branch...who wouldn't want to take a stroll through such a place? Who doesn't love natural scenes of beauty like this? I've heard about what Richard Louv calls Nature-deficit disorder with kids today. While he makes some excellent points, I'm not sure I endorse all his notions and ideas. Perhaps I can make a difference just to the young people in my everyday life. With my bird photographs and blog, perhaps I've made a difference to some of you. Have kids? Show this to them.



A friend of mine recently asked me to use my blog as more of a sounding board for environmental issues by endorsing a particular movie I've not yet even seen. Every single day there are gobs of stories about how we're wrecking our planet and I'm sure you're aware. But relaying such news isn't what I want to do with this blog. By capturing and sharing these images of nature's awesome beauty, I'm showing you how much I love and respect the birds as well as the natural world. We protect what we love and I'm hoping this is an infectious notion.



I've been a volunteer field trip leader for Madison Audubon and Friends of Pheasant Branch going on four years but participation by children and teenagers is virtually nil. Why is that? I do not have my own kids, but I do have many nieces and nephews. To the best of my knowledge none have ever taken interest in bird watching or any other passive nature hobby. I worry for one nephew in particular because he's a veritable video game addict. He spends hours on end doing battle against on-line avatars in role-playing games.



As kids in the early 70's, my brother and I spent countless hours exploring the woods, fields and streams around Cherokee Marsh on the northeast side of Madison. We collected butterflies, raised caterpillars, kept spiders in jars, waded for hellgrammites and frogs in the creek, admired tiger beetles and let walking sticks crawl on us. We climbed trees, built forts and I'll never forget the first time we saw a Sandhill Crane flying and calling overhead. We both held an interest in astronomy, but I collected fossils while he collected beetles. Every day of summer was larger than life with adventures that were imagined to be out of a National Geographic special. I can't think of a better context in which to remember someone by. My brother's fondness for the natural world was noted in his obituary but never have so few words challenged equity for experiences, influences and cherished memories.

Though I do wonder...what is replacing these experiences, influences and memories for those kids who are caught up in electrolandia?

All images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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