As summer rolls into fall, Americans are traveling in droves to see the beauty of nature as the seasons change.
They’ll explore and post countless photos on Instagram and Facebook on a quest to inspire others and garner attention for themselves.
But this modern take on coexisting with nature is killing us – literally.
Mark Twain once said, “Life is short, break the rules… Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did.”
Now, most of the time, I’m in total agreement with that.
We all have a little bit of rebel within. Life would be pretty boring if we didn’t have some adventurous souls willing to take a little risk to explore and discover for the rest of us.
Like we tell our kids over and over – and over – some rules are put in place to keep us safe… to prevent that little thing called death for as long as possible.
But there are those who think they’re invincible.
They’re usually young, but still old enough to know better.
But they aren’t going to have twenty years left if they ignore every safety recommendation.
And for this, they’re also idiots.
Just a little bit closer
“I come to the forbidden edge…” – Muriel Strode
So, it’s selfie season (isn’t it always?), and the change in scenery gets people out into the mountains to leaf-peep or hike or see wildlife as it emerges for mating season.
There are millions of acres of national parkland in the U.S., and they are very photogenic. But getting that perfect shot is costing people their lives and also destroying the nature they’re so fond of.
More than 300 people die in national parks annually, but park rangers say the actual risk of death in national parks is very low.
So what’s the deal? Well, the risk is low if you follow the safety rules. (Hint: Don’t be an idiot.)
Yes, people die of heart attacks or natural causes because they pushed themselves too far. But they also die of exposure because they didn’t want to stay on a marked trail, or they want that perfect selfie that makes them look like they’re leaping off a cliff.
Problem is, they get their wish.
Multiple deaths occur each year because selfie-seekers and Instagram junkies get too close to the edge in search of likes. Or they climb over a guardrail in order to rid their photo of any trace of civilization.
During the government shutdown that started late last year, people died because they decided to take risks in national parks – and because there were no park rangers on duty to help them when they got hurt.
In December 2018, a teenage girl fell to her death from an overlook in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona. The next day – on Christmas – a man died from a head injury sustained by a fall at Yosemite.
In March of this year, one man was killed and several others injured when climbing rocks near waterfalls.
The death occurred at Yosemite; the injuries in other California parks. All of them had veered off the marked trails to get up close and personal in dangerous areas that are off-limits for a reason.
And at the Grand Canyon, where park rangers are on constant alert, 125 people have died from falls in the last hundred years.
The most recent deaths included a man who fell 400 feet to his death in April of this year because he got too close to the edge of the South Rim and a tourist who lost his footing and plunged from the edge while taking a photo.
Both fatalities occurred within the same week — despite posted signs, guardrails, warnings by rangers, and the human instinct to avoid mortal danger.
It’s great to go “off the beaten path” once in a while. Conformity is boring, but we were also bestowed by our Creator with common-sense. At least most of us.
John Muir, the “Father of National Parks,” said he wanted to “save the American soul from total surrender to materialism” by helping people to get out and explore God’s creation.
He also emphasized the superiority of the wild and the need for humans to have a healthy fear and respect for it.
Not ready to die yet? Then don’t be an idiot.
And then there are the animals…
Ah, the liberals and their love for animals. Don’t you dare visit a zoo or buy a product tested on animals.
But if you want to see animals in their natural habitat, then it’s ok.
They’re all about protecting the environment — unless they can get a great photo or a blurb for Snapchat. Then all bets are off.
In Yellowstone and other western parks, there have been multiple attacks by bison, elk, and bears. It wasn’t just because a hiker stumbled across a surprised animal.
Nope, people have died because they wanted to get just a little bit closer to a 2,000 pound wild animal that can run faster than a Prius.
The standard rule in all national parks is to stay 25 yards away from bison and elk, and 100 yards away from bears, mountain lions, and other predators. They can run… fast. There’s a reason you need a good head start.
But despite all their advocacy for environmental protection and animal rights, the self-absorbed don’t think it’s hypocritical to encroach on wildlife if it makes them look good online.
Worth the risk?
For some naïve hypocrites, the philosophy is, “The only one I’m endangering is myself. I can handle it.”
Okay, but that’s not true (just like most of their self-serving rhetoric).
In order to get the perfect pic, many of these photo-seekers are luring animals closer with snacks. “Here, have part of my organic vegan protein bar so I can get a picture. You’re soooo cute!”
Now these wild, unpredictable, and YUUUGE animals are getting used to their little treats. They’re coming closer and closer to humans in the parks.
The humans like it because they get that all-important photo-op. The animals, not so much.
They’re being hit by cars — and worse.
Some animals are being fed so much human food that their systems are breaking down. They can no longer process the leaves and berries that sustain them. Winter comes, tourism dies down, and the animals starve to death with plenty of food in sight.
And even if you don’t get mauled or gorged to death in the quest for a little closeness with nature, you’re endangering other people.
While luring that cute little racoon closer, you’re opening yourself up to rabies. And the epitome of idiocy? Some people are luring rodents closer for a picture, getting bitten, and spreading horrific viruses. Bubonic plague, anyone?
Dr. Emily Perrine says it best for MSN: “Human beings are objectifying everything and being rewarded for their behavior.”
We just have to have those ‘likes.’ We want those views on YouTube. We want everyone to be envious of us as we stand in a field of wheat surrounded by bison like we’re Kevin Costner.
So what’s the answer?
Well, there are a couple of options.
Spend millions of our tax dollars on the installation of physical barriers and even more signs in our national parks to make it more difficult for intelligent-challenged folks to die.
And spend millions more on media campaigns to remind people to follow the rules – rules they still won’t bother listening to.
But how about the most cost-effective and practical solution?
Don’t be an idiot.