Steve at the WildeBeat has posted Part II of his “Scared Inside” podcasts. If you listen you’ll get the chance to hear me rambling at a pace roughly equivalent to Martin Scorsese on crack. As long as I’m on the subject I’ll excerpt some of the many comments from folks responding to last week’s post on this subject:
From Dan Mitchell:
I’ll never forget the time I casually mentioned to one of my work colleagues who has (I now clearly understand) led an entirely indoor life that I was planning a short pack trip. She ripped into me for acting foolishly and dangerously and risking my life and putting the futures of my children in danger. There was no explaining…
I can’t provide any specific examples, but my entire offices is riddled with a fear of anything outdorrs that creeps, crawls, lurks and hides out just waiting to devour unsuspecting newbies like themselves – including, but not limited to spiders, snakes, coyotes, bats and rodents of all description.
From Randy L:
I cracked up a few weeks ago when one of our office workers spotted a turkey outside the window near her workspace. Our building is very near the wetlands beyond 237, and we commonly see ducks, seabirds, various rodents, and such. She was actually scared of it. She was saying “oh my god” “what about diseases”, and “do the bite?” “Should we call security?”, things like that.
I just got an internal email at work. For reference, I work in the Hillview area of Palo Alto, very near the Stanford Dish. This email was to warn people that although we have a lovely campus with pathways between buildings, we share it with wildlife and here is some information about the creatures you may encounter (attached: pdfs on how to deal with mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and those incredibly dangerous rabbits, among other wildlife).
It included a bolded statement that any wildlife sighting should be reported immediately to facilities with a full description of the animal and the location. And make sure to be especially careful walking to our vehicles and between buildings. The email had a very ‘warning! danger!’ vibe, not a ‘look at our wonderful environment – make sure you enjoy it and treat the inhabitants with respect’ feel that it should have.
I do understand the relevance of sharing rattlesnake and mountain lion information given our location, but things like this are exactly what this post and comments are about. I’m picturing a poor facilities guy sitting on the phone and taking reports of every woodpecker and fence lizard that terrified employees see.
One more comment from my exalted post on the Mercury News copy desk: Generally the media are in the business of giving people what they want. And people filter out what they don’t want.
Then there’s the business of telling stories: we are a storytelling species that has a bad habit of imposing a narrative on situations where there might not be any story at all, just a collection of stuff that happened. The almost instinctive urge to tell stories — rather than, say, provide a listing of known facts — obliges us to find the most interesting way to tell them. Or in the case of TV, the one that gets the best ratings. (With newspapers in a smoking death spiral it’s absurd to say anything we do “sells papers” anymore).
Best ways to tell a story: zero in on conflict, tragedy, irony, humor, emotional extremes, lurid “forbidden” details, departures from acceptable behavior. This tends to yield overheated copy that exaggerates dangers, romanticizes risk takers, and produces stories that attract audiences and advertisers.
The most practical solution for fear of the outdoors is for people who go there to take indoorspeople out with them and let them find out for themselves that death is not stalking them from behind every tree trunk. This is much harder than railing against the news media because it’s roughly the equivalent of taking your stamp collection to work and trying to convince your co-workers how cool it is.
But we’re not talking about collecting stamps; we’re talking about nurturing advocacy for wild places that’ll all get cut down if people remain paralyzed with fear at the concept of three hours of walking upright on dirt.
Might make it worth a try.