The erosion of the American wild, while driven by development and resource extraction, is primarily a function of our mindset. We have alienated ourselves from the wilderness by creating a social structure focused on passive entertainment, extreme hygiene, and the elimination of risk, one that prefers the sterile and controlled environment of the internet over the unknowns of the wild.
Our increasing addiction to and dependence on technology is also intimately linked to the disconnect between the American lifestyle and the outdoors. The immediacy of portable technology and the relocation of our social structure to online media have resulted in a culture of multitasking and the lack of the ability to either be present in the moment or be comfortable without constant stimulation. When we do go outside, we proudly post pictures, often while still outside, proof being in the outdoors without having to actually engage in it. Our mindset is reflected in our public polices and management agencies. On a recent trip to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon I arrived at a trail head only to find a sign saying that the fossils along the hike were replicas and that if I wanted to see the real fossils, I should continue down the road to the visitor’s center. It was then unsurprising when I passed no one on the trail and watched as car after car stopped, read the sign, and continued down the road to the comfort of air conditioning and interpretive videos.