In our literature discussion yesterday, I asked the #Meliora students whether they and their peers would be interested in climbing Mt Everest, the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air . The students’ interaction around that question prompted one of them to observe, “people don’t talk about climbing Mt Everest very much anymore.”
I asked them why they thought that was. The nearly-unanimous conclusion was that people, especially of their age, are too caught up in entertainment, gaming, and social media. “They aren’t interested in going outside for an adventure.”
This analysis made me sad. So, I decided to delve into the topic a bit, to see what the evidence says. I’m feeling happier now! In their 2017 report, the Outdoor Foundation reported that participation in outdoor recreation actually grew modestly between 2015 and 2016. 1% more boys between the ages of 6 and 17 participated in outdoor pursuits, although conversely 1% fewer girls in the same age range did so.
Looking at the longer-term trends, the participation rates have stayed relatively stable for the past decade. Somewhere between 48% and 50% of the American population has gone outdoors for an adventure at least once a year, and in 2016, “[a]lmost half of Americans were moderately active in outdoor recreation, getting outside between 12 and 103 times per year.”
[Linksters grow up as] overprotected and suffocated youths during a secular crisis; matures into risk averse, conformist rising adults; produces indecisive midlife arbitrator-leaders during a spiritual awakening; maintains influence (but less respect) as sensitive elders.
Likewise, in a fascinating analysis most recently updated in 2006, Ron Watters argues that there are four generational cycles that follow a (mostly) predictable pattern. These patterns apply to outdoor adventure-seeking as predictably as to other domains. He identifies the “Linksters” (or Generation Z) as part of the “adaptive” generation, and asserts this generation grows up as “overprotected and suffocated youths during a secular crisis; matures into risk averse, conformist rising adults; produces indecisive midlife arbitrator-leaders during a spiritual awakening; maintains influence (but less respect) as sensitive elders.”
Now I can simultaneously feel guilty about how I raised my sons (technically, my oldest is a millennial), and also know that trends are forever in flux.