As world leaders gather in Davos this week they’ll no doubt be tempted to gaze at the surrounding snow-covered Swiss mountains.
Beyond the network of chair lifts and ski runs, those wild mountains are a stunning example of the precious wilderness that is disappearing before our eyes.
While our political leaders squabble amongst themselves like children, all around us our planet is in tatters. Distracted by everything from Brexit to Trump’s Mexican border wall, politicians from across the globe are ignoring the complete environmental catastrophe they and their predecessors have created. The root cause? Our leaders have completely lost touch with their wild side.
Over the last five years, for the Channel 5 series New Lives In The Wild, I have visited more than 50 families around the world who have stripped their lives back to the bare basics.
They have abandoned modern society for a simpler, more organic life in the wilderness. They live hand-to-mouth, earthy existences disconnected from the grid. Shunning the miserable pressures of modern urban life, they put two fingers up at the system and are all the better for it.
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They have forfeited money for happiness. Unshackled by debt, they are liberated and free to care more. A friend at work recently graduated with a £60,000 debt. What a way to start life. We could learn a lot from our wild side. Where modern society encourages materialistic gluttony, the wilderness fosters respect.
We rarely talk about the impact of population growth but let’s face it, there are too many of us. Let’s have more sex yet breed less. What about a maximum of two children per couple? It could be a voluntary part of our responsibility to future generations. Fewer people means less pollution, less overcrowding and a better quality of life for us all.
Fogle, pictured during the filming of his new Channel 5 series New Lives In The Wild, also proposed a new national service-style wilderness programme for children +3
Fogle, pictured during the filming of his new Channel 5 series New Lives In The Wild, also proposed a new national service-style wilderness programme for children
Embracing our wild side also means getting young people involved right from the word go. At the moment we’re failing our children when it comes to fostering their relationship with the great outdoors. One in three children are now either overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, according to Public Health England. In some parts of North East England more than a quarter of children are classified as obese by the time they start school.
Youngsters could be sent off to the wilderness as part of an alternative national service. Some could volunteer to work with the NHS or the police. You can be sure that an evening in A&E or on the beat would be an eye-opener, while others could spend time in the wilderness reconnecting to their roots. ‘Bikes and hikes not likes and swipes’ should be our maxim for living.
As a father it is just as important for my kids to use a knife and start a fire as it is for them to learn to count or spell. It could also be the answer to our mental health epidemic. There is proof spending time in the wilderness can reduce depression and anxiety. It could help to form a kinder, more considerate society rooted in the heritage of the past rather than the pointless stresses of the present.
Fogle also highlighted the importance of children learning practical skills. Pitured, Fogle with three girls who live with their parents in the forest of Canada, as seen on New Lives In The Wild +3
Fogle also highlighted the importance of children learning practical skills. Pitured, Fogle with three girls who live with their parents in the forest of Canada, as seen on New Lives In The Wild
We are scientifically and technologically evolving into urban beasts. For many, the wilderness is a place seen in exotic documentaries. A theme park to visit fleetingly. But it is much more than that.
Those wild men, women and children I have visited have all embraced a simpler existence on islands, desert, mountains and jungles, disconnected from the grid, they don’t have an easier life but hell do they have a happier one. I’m not suggesting we all move to the wilderness but we could certainly live ‘earthier’ lives.
So there you have it. Eat less. Breed less. Walk in the woods and smile. Take less and give more and we’ll all be in a better place.