Sven & Fam Nov22, 2012 059

When mankind places a dam on a river, the natural flow is disrupted, and all ecological processes are thrown off kilter.  The same can be said of humanity, when some shaded form of a mentally disturbed person goes bizerk and takes off on a wild rampage to kill other people and drastically impede the human flow of life.  When such tragic events happen, as in the case of the recent shopping mall killing in Portland, Oregon during the Christmas rush, or the specially nefarious snuffing out of such innocent children at Sandy Hook, in Connecticut, people are left dazed with disbelief and flabbergasted wonderment. Why? How could such evil make it to our doorstep?

There will continue to be much analysis and speculation, and hopefully some change in the politics of gun legislation and easier access to better mental health resources for people whom desperately need it, no matter what income level.  While there are no easy answers and any remedy complicated, I have my own ideas as to why such dark things happen and what we can help do about it.

I am also very familiar to the Clackamas Town Center, having shopped there myself in years gone by, and in fact had to call my niece whom lives near by to be sure she was not there at the time of the terrible shooting spree. It turns out, she had planned to shop at Macy’s that very day of the incident,  but a bad head cold changed her plans. She said it was the first time she was ever glad to have been sick.  She also has two small kids, not even as old as the ones that were killed at Sandy Hook. But, with two horrific events within a weeks time a part, I’m sure she could especially relate to parents of the 6 and 7 year olds there; or the relatives of the teachers who heroically tried to shield those kids and died trying.

Though I have no kids by blood of my own,  I do have a step-son and  a niece and nephew that sometimes feel like my own, and friends and other relatives that are kids or have kids of their own. And, while everyone says you can’t understand the pain of those who go through such horrific ordeals unless you go through it yourself, it is not hard for me to imagine what level of grief those unfortunate people are trying to excruciatingly endure. Nor does it lessen my own level of empathy and sympathy for those people who must  first-hand bear  such suffrage at the most highest of costs.


While generalities cover a lot of ground, there does seem to be a common thread to many of the shooters who drop of the cliff of reality, to create their own legacy of earthly claim to fame, as evil as it may be. Computer games and high-tech gadgetry seems to have occupied a lot of their time and personality development.  These days, our world is all about cell phones, iPods, notepads, computers, television, and a basic plug drug addiction.  Time spent plugged into machines is time spent away from nature, which is the spawning grounds  that these contraptions originally came from. Nature deficit disorder is the name professionals have given this condition, and it is very real. There have even been books written about this new modern-day madness, and the sorry predicaments this malady presents to current generations of high-tech society.

When we let machines absorb our personalities into the land of make-believe,  leaving behind our ties to nature, our compassion for real life is lessened.  People want to be connected to other people, yet somehow we get swept up into a  cyber-world  of foggy dimensions that disrupts our long-range vision.  I have seen people in airplanes, shopping malls, and seemingly everywhere that humans go,  that are talking to voices in a cell phone, yet cannot  relate to a real person right next to them. What are we connecting to?

When we abandon nature in favor of our machines, it often comes with a high cost. Not only to the natural flora and fauna, but to human nature as well. Compassion is something that we feel, and the real world is where we get those feelings.  Our emotions come from our abilities to feel nature.  Nature works on our souls, and is something machines can never do. Seeing the river on-screen is not the same as putting your foot into it.  Our compassion for anything come from feelings that real world sights and smells transmit first hand and allow us to directly  feel physically.


Kids of today spend so much time away from real nature, is there any wonder why some are led astray into irreverent perceptions of the world?  Ecology of mind is as important as the  ecology of successional processes and natural cycles. When we as people forget or ignore  the importance of our own impacts that can be so disruptive to  the natural flow of things, we will suffer the consequences.

From greater storm intensities created by man induced climate change, to aberrations in the human gene pool that cause individuals to go off the deep end, manifestations of dire experiences will continue to plague the human condition, if we lose sight of real world nature and let our apathy to it prevail.

As a global  unchecked  human population expands exponentially, along with a tremendous change  rate of  high technologies that are obsolete almost  as fast as they are created, do we have a recipe for extreme disruption to the river of life. It is the metaphoric dam  that impedes the stream of human consciousness that is our own worst enemy when we begin believing our salvation will be saved by some magic rabbit coming out of the hat of yet another sophisticated  man-made  technology to rescue us from ourselves.


The remedy: step into the river with your real feet. Seek out nature, and balance out a real world with the high-tech one.  Feel the water, drink it in, taste the medicinal flow. Rivers are the life blood of mother earth. We are her children. Our blood comes from her veins. To  ignore her importance and  beauty is to shoot her in the face in an utter act of disrespect and evil. Our collective silence of complacency comes with our failure to connect what we do to nature with what we are doing to ourselves and everyone else.

To protect nature, and human nature, we have to respect both. Reverence comes with immersion in real world experiences, separate from our machines that can dull our senses and degrade the very essence of our humanity. Hug yourself, all others, and embrace nature. Never lose sight of your feet, that is where your roots are. Change happens from the bottom up.

ruby ruby rapids

For a long time now, here at Wapitiland, we have  recognized the need for continuing education about natural history and the importance of being  continuously  connected to nature. This is why we have been offering river ecology for teachers in concert with the Idaho Fish and Game Project Wild curricula  – to better educate teachers to better inform kids about conservation education.  While our river trips are very suited to kids and families, and our cultures  future is in the hands of todays kids. To reach them, we feel more can be accessed by the ripple effect of their teachers.  S o our aim is to reach as many teachers as possible, thereby compounding our collective impact to all of society.


If you are a teacher, like the ones above, or know someone who is, perhaps you might consider, or urge them too, of checking our River Ecology Workshop for Teachers with Project Wild on Idaho’s Salmon River.  More info on this unique trip and informative outdoor experience can be found here –

Another good source for teachers with valuable  insights and ideas, specially in hindsight of the recent Shady Hook tragedy,  that I highly recommend is the book:  “Earth In Mind – On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect” by David W. Orr

An excerpt from the books  back jacket: “David Orr is a seasoned doer as well as thinker, whose primary   concern – education – could be the very pivot on which our society turns back towards life. If such dramatic and necessary change in our teaching and learning does begin, much will be owed to the ideas herein.” – Stephanie Mills, author of Whatever Happened to Ecology? and In Praise of Nature.

This book  is highly applicable to todays situation, with real world solution oriented advice for educators in all disciplines.

I wish we could do these type of  trips back to back all summer long, but one official one is better than none.  Of course, all our trips are designed with the idea of furthering informational  outdoor experiences for all people. Paying forward the ideas of back to nature education is our way of being a part of the solution as to what partially ails our culture and environment. Hope you can join us  sometime down the river.

Fawn Wapshilla 2005 webshots 009

To me, this fawn represents the complete innocence of those terrified kids of Sandy Hook who  did what they could to be still and hide to survive impending danger.  Luckily most did. Sadly, not all.  With age, spots will disappear. Not so for memory. But the scars of survival can make us culturally stronger, when tempered with learning from natures harsh lessons and applying them to the nurturing of compassion for others outwardly  and onward.