The Story of Seven Boys and One Grizzly
Seven high school students were near the end of their month-long survival course in the Alaskan wilderness, but the real schooling began when they came face to snout with the wildest thing of all.
Response by Gretel Dougherty
For many thousands of years, teenagers were sent into the wilderness on solo trips as a rite of passage. Spending a year alone in the desert to learn about plants, animals, and the earth in general was typical of many Native American tribes. This was not seen as too risky. It was the norm. These days, people are more scared of death. They worry that the experience of connecting with nature is overshadowed by the possibility of death, or injury. However, the practice of sending high school students on solo trips should not be challenged. Humans are increasingly less connected with the natural world, and it is important now more than ever that high schoolers experience nature and realise that there are things greater and more powerful than they are.
Going into nature causes changes in the way people experience things, and in the way people think about things. Today’s society allows people to get very involved in their own work. Collaboration, initiative, independence are all important in a 9-5 job but it’s hard to learn those skills without a personal teaching experience. A trip into the wilderness teaches you all of those things and a solo trip shows you how to rely on yourself and value your life. It’s the most important thing and yet many people don’t give it enough thought. Life is sometimes hard when so much of it is just the same unfulfilling routine. People need to know what life was meant to be like before we changed it for ourselves by introducing things to make it easier. Cars, airplanes, and cell phones all make things so easy that it is hard to notice and appreciate the power of nature, which leads to the big problem of the world today. People assume we are more powerful than nature, and it isn’t true. Nature is beautiful and strong, and many humans understand that only in a very shallow way. Nature is not there just to provide us with a pretty environment. We are as much a part of nature a we have ever been and the disconnection we are currently facing will eventually come back around and hurt us when we have ruined our environment.
The Dakota Access pipeline that is being built right now is an example. It is more important to us to transport gas across states than it is for us to preserve the water supply. It is more important for us to become more and more commercial than it is for us to stop global warming. It is more important to euthanise bears that are dangerous to us than it is to live and let live. Maybe if everyone was involved in a solo trip as a teen then we would see more value in the world around us. I believe natural skills should be taught in schools, not only as a rare and extremely expensive option for people who know about it and can pay for it.
Even though not everyone enjoys being in nature, necessarily, it is important for more people to experience it. If the only ones who do are the ones who are intrigued enough to seek it out, or whose parents send them there, we may not make much more progress. We are meant to run wild and free and appreciate beauty and know how to collaborate with people and independently work for our survival. Multiple studies from universities like Berkeley and Rochester have shown that time spent in nature is linked to happiness. If we are to connect with nature again and appreciate our environment it is necessary to take risks. They are 100% worth it. Risk always has been essential to life and it always will be. No matter how easy we attempt to make our lives, there will always be some element of risk. It is important to live life as hard as possible. Death is natural and we need to respect it, not fear it. Devastation happens sometimes, but a boring and weak mediocre life is nothing compared to a life with soul satisfying happiness and lows that will bring strength and resilience.