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Friday, 29 June 2018

Bushcraft and Survival in the News; June 2018

There is a pattern forming in the local and international  news when it comes to topics of bushcraft and survival; it all seems to be focused on emergency preparedness, which is fine and a very important topic but there does seem to be a sensationalist element to a lot of the articles and a skew towards 'prepping', in my mind there is a difference between sensible emergency preparedness and prepping but rather than discuss that here I have added a page to our Bushcraft Basics section, which we are constantly expanding, on 'prepping and 'bugging-out'. So if you want a bit of context to some of what will be presented in these news articles check out those pages first. I'm hoping that over time though more true bushcraft will make it into the news and we will be able to address topics with a focus on nature, the environment, traditional skills and other topics more relevant to the educational aspects of bushcraft. 

Let's get into it though; what has been in the news over the last few weeks?

We'll start with an absurd story from the United States which reports on a situation which is entirely at odds to what most bushcrafters want to encourage. I have spent a lot of years encouraging people to spend as much time outdoors as possible, to try new outdoor activities, learn new skills, gain an appreciation of nature and the environment, learn ancient and traditional skills and am convinced of the value of the outdoors in the health and well-being of  individuals and is very important. However Pennsylvania State University has recently disbanded it's Outing Club along with it's scuba and caving clubs after a lengthy review process that deemed them to be unsafe.

The Outing Club has a 98 year history of running adventurous activities such as rafting, hiking and climbing but due to perceived risk associated with these activities the society is to be disbanded. The University raised concerns about the lack of trained professional guides on the societies outings and also reported concerns regarding the consumption of alcohol on outings where the activities are already risky.

Although the society denies any misuse of alcohol on their outings they do acknowledge the risk associated with their activities but this is just part of any adventurous activity, by definition without risk an activity is not adventurous. Rock climbing, white water rafting and other outdoor activities are risky, there is no doubt about that but that risk is at least part of the attraction of those activities. Risk and adventure and it's role in society, as a rite of passage and as a challenge has been examined by outdoor education professionals in depth over the years. I gave a presentation on adventure in society  a few years ago and you can see it here;

Despite the fact that risk is accepted by academics to be part of adventurous activities the University is opposed to the operation of the society even though it offers courses in Outdoor Recreation where the benefits of outdoor activities would be discussed at length. With that in mind the move to disband a society with such a pedigree and with an ethos that would be entirely in keeping with the ethos of their academic provision seems odd.

An update from the society tells us that they have been granted the status of Special Interest Organisation which means they won't have to disband entirely but they are still prevented from going outside and resuming their normal programme of outdoor activites;

So a strange and sad state of affairs for the outdoorsy folk at Penn State but hopefully they will get things sorted soon even if they do need to end up employing some professional outdoor leaders and guides to help satisfy the requirements of risk assessments.

Having mentioned prepping in the introduction of this post lets return to some of those stories;

A short snippet of news from USA Today that mixed martial artist, wrestler, actress and Olympic Bronze Medallist Ronda Rousey has said that she is a 'doomsday prepper' who alongside her career raises goats and lives a life free of many modern conveniences and has said;

"Instead of my apocalypse plan being a handle of alcohol and maybe tears, which is a lot of people's plan, I'm like, I'm going to make it. If anyone's going to make it, I'm going to make it."

She is not alone either as people in the British Isles buy up old cold war era nuclear shelters, either they are prepping for the apocalypse or have very strange tastes in accommodation. Newer models are available to custom order as well just in case you need to install a bomb shelter under you house or garden

The Sonnenberg Tunnel, the worlds largest civilian nuclear shelter, until it's decommission in 2006, was designed to be converted from it's primary function of motorway tunnel to a shelter capable of housing 20,000 people in the event of nuclear war or disaster. By Cooper - Self-photographed, Public Domain, Link

As well as bunkers and shelters becoming popular Sweden has recently distributed leaflets throughout the country issuing instructions and advice in the event of war and encouraging people to prepare for crisis and announcing the possibility of conscription in case of war. The German government did something similar a few years ago. This follows the move last year to re-introduce compulsory military service in Sweden which had briefly been disbanded between 2010 and 2017. 

The full leaflet in English can be found HERE. Bare in mind that Sweden has issued similar leaflets many times since The Second World War but one of the things which prompts the latest edition of this advice is the current aggressive posture of Russia and increased Russian military incursions into a near to Swedish territory, the UK has experienced similar sabre rattling probes more an more often recently so maybe we can expect a similar publication soon as well? OK so we probably won't get one but it may be worth bearing the advice of the Swedish leaflet in mind. 

As well as their leaflet the Swedish government has prepared other information and a webpage for people looking to prepare for future emergencies including this video about food storage and preparing for short term emergencies such as power outages; 

As well as messages in the press to be prepared for emergencies and of restrictions on outdoor activities we were treated to a story of someone who had managed to run afoul of a full hat-trick of dangerous wildlife. The BBC reports about 20 year old Dylan McWilliams who since he was seventeen has survived a snake bite, bear attack and most recently a run in with a tiger shark in Hawaii. 

This does bring home some of the dangers that can be expected in the wilderness areas that we love so much, while I lived in Sweden several years ago I did collect a few news paper cuttings about bear attacks, often on people who were quietly picking berries in the woods and just happened to encounter bears who were picking berries too.  At least Dylan came of better than mountain man Hugh Glass after his run-in with a bear. 

Look forward to the next instalment of Bushcraft and Survival in the News in September.

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