Fall in the outdoors

Most of the country idealizes the fall in New England, but the fascination with fiery colored mountains obscures the simple beauty of a Midwestern autumn.

Chances are, if you are reading this newspaper outside, the air smells fresh and the students walking by are no longer in tank tops.

Or it could be ninety degrees — the unpredictable nature of the season is part of what makes its brief stay so precious.

Summer feels as if it were ages ago, but as the heat winds down, the next few weeks before midterms will be the perfect time to explore the outdoors.

Americans have steadily spent less time outdoors each year since the 1980s, resulting in a total decrease of 18 to 25 percent of time spent outdoors since peak levels of time spent outside.

During the same period, childhood obesity rates have tripled.

While eating McDonalds at a picnic table won’t reduce its calories or fat, the trends are related as indicators that an increasingly sedentary America that would rather experience “mediated nature” on TV or the computer.

Although I am a self-proclaimed city girl, I cringe when any of my friends not-quite-jokingly assert their determination to avoid nature.

“I don’t go in nature,” would have once sounded nonsensical among a people who coexisted in close proximity with their environment.

Today, it is completely possible to grow up in the United States and many other parts of the world without witnessing the quiet of dawn in the mountains or the surprisingly loud chaos of insects at night.

As a society, when we spend less time outside — and I don’t mean mowing the lawn or tanning at the pool — we not only lose our connection to our planet, but to ourselves.

My experiences camping and hiking have inspired my passionate defense of the earth’s resources. But they have also given me a deep appreciation for the struggles of farmers and developers to advance our cause in the face of sometimes hostile natural conditions.

In fact, if you never leave the city, it’s easy to be an environmentalist.

The minute you’re in the forest, the obvious tension between our comfort and the untamed wild becomes clear.

If you’ve spent the first several weeks of this semester hunkered down in the Wells Library, take a day this weekend or next and go off into the woods.

Drag your friend who is the most dedicated to staying within 500 feet of the nearest Starbucks and find somewhere gorgeous.

In Bloomington we’re lucky to be surrounded by easy day trips: Yellowwood State Forest, Lake Monroe, and Griffy Lake, which is within walking distance of campus.

Now is the time — before you know it you’ll be buying hot chocolate from some freezing student at a booth outside Ballantine.

E-mail: swilensk@indiana.edu

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