A Nation of Slugs and Couch Potatoes

NWF   |   April 18, 2006

Ding Darling, the founder of National Wildlife Federation would often say, “ten thousand stallions unconnected cannot move a baby carriage.”  Darling was a movement builder who believed in the power of assembly, the need to organize, work together and to participate in government for positive change.  As an avid angler and duck hunter, Darling believed that sportsmen and women must work together with all who care about wildlife’s future.

Reports over the past decade indicate that sport angling is on the decline and that a suburbanized population is rapidly losing touch with another long-standing outdoor tradition — hunting.  I feel that Americans are losing touch with nature not just because they don’t hunt or fish as we once did but because they don’t spend any significant time in nature.

Paralleling this trend, the number of Americans who attend public meetings has also fallen sharply over the past several decades.  The numbers are even greater concerning those attending a political rally or speeches, serving on a committee of some local organization, or working for a political party.

By almost every measure, Americans engagement in politics and government has fallen steadily and sharply over the last generation.  This trend continues, despite the fact that average levels of education-one of the best individual-level predictor of political participation-have risen sharply. 

Will a shrinking community of publicly-minded hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts be able to continue providing conservation vision and leadership into the 21st century?  Or will people with television-created environmental opinions drive environmental decision making?  If so, how will they fashion their beliefs and values about resource management?

I worry that on an average, Americans spend over seven hours a day watching television with very little time being spent in the out-of-doors or at civic gatherings of any type. 

Are we becoming a nation of slugs and couch potatoes?

Published: April 18, 2006