Can we learn from America’s Great Outdoors?
National Great Outdoors Month 2014 has drawn to a close in the USA. The country that champions its natural beauty so publicly is also the country whose obesity levels suggests they can’t help but ignore it. In an effort to rekindle the nation’s love of being immersed in nature, many of America’s great outdoor institutions pulled together once more to provide nationwide attractions for people of all ages.
It may be an obvious thing to state, but due to the sheer size of the USA’s natural expanses it seems one month is too little a time to embrace it fully. The people of America didn’t let that stop them. From fly-fishing challenges, boaters descending on the country’s 3.5 million miles of river and thousands of volunteers making moves to improve conservation efforts to city-sponsored camp-outs in the nation’s biggest urban spaces and even Park Rangers camping out in Walmart stores to raise awareness, it really did take the country by storm.
This year more than most there was a feeling of renewed passion for Americans. For all the diversity and the tensions that stem from it, it seems the Great Outdoors is a wonderful unification tool. Such was the enthusiasm, the ‘month’ was increased to begin on Memorial Day weekend at the end of May and to culminate in the Independence Day celebrations on July 4th.
Another factor about the initiative is that it was largely not for profit. All proceeds were put straight back into the organisations that had major roles in putting on the activities. Ranging from the National Park Service and the American Recreation Coalition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all of these groups received huge support from those that participated. Not only does this highlight the success that the initiative had, it also bodes extremely well for future years.
The question is, could we benefit from something like this in Britain? While we can’t compete with our friends across the pond when it comes to size, the UK has some fantastic natural resources. Groups such as the National Trust are hugely experienced in organising initiatives of this magnitude. With some government backing, and the much needed helping hand that celebrity endorsement would provide, there is no reason it could not work.
The London Olympics in 2012 showed Britain that all was not lost. Sports hit all-time highs in terms of participation. What it lacked was a coherent idea of how to continue success off the back of the Olympic buzz. A scheme that rivals the Great Outdoors Month in America would also have an advantage. Where the enthusiasm around the Games burned out as media attention began to wane, this would not rely on a catalyst to spark off participation. On top of that, it would be a lot more inclusive. You don’t have to have an interest in sports – just a love of the outdoors. Whether its activity or conservation, participation is not reserved for any age group or demographic.
So, who’d have thought it? Our American cousins have become the trailblazers of outdoor appreciation. Although at Greenman Bushcraft we appreciate the great outdoors every month of the year, the public may need a slight nudge of encouragement. If you want to get a head start, why not check out our selection of field guides to see what really floats your boat.