“Darwinism at its finest”. It’s one of many responses Jake Anderson received beneath a video he posted recently from Belmore Falls; a short clip of 4 people making a reckless attempt at a swollen river crossing. The falls are 40m from them. The video raises many questions for Jake, for us and our duty as online publishers…
Now, I’m not going to stick up for these guys because what did was ridiculously stupid. But i’m also not going to argue some of the more ‘aggressive’ comments were wrong or unjustified.
What I want to do is open up a line of discussion, where we put thought towards the best way of dealing with situations like this; how as influencers, (I use that term lightly on myself) can help drive good practices and how we can help educate the masses.
We live in a world where more and more people are venturing into the bush. It’s awesome too; people are learning new skills and learning about themselves. The problem however lies in these newbies making poor assessments of conditions, and not having the experience or the tools to make correct judgments. Check it out.
So how do we best manage this? How can people who are sucked into the outdoors through social media enjoy the experience safely?
Here’s what happened
I have my own interpretation of what happened on Sunday morning. I could be wrong but looking at the evidence I have come to this conclusion: Jay, John and I had just come from a lookout on the safe side of the river and had to walk through a fair amount of still water on the edge of the flood. We’d been standing in the heavy rain for about 2 hours waiting for an opportunity to get the drones skyward, so when we got back to the car we were all soaked to the bone. The group in question may have made the assumption that we had crossed and whether they were too arrogant or too shy to ask, decided to attempt it themselves. That’s when I spoke up and quite possibly saved their lives
They made choices that they believed would help them across, like linking arms, but this in fact created more risk – if one of them slipped or got caught by a branch then all three of them would have been sent over a 90m waterfall. When I called them back they returned straight away and when I explained the situation they began to see the potential enormity of their mistake. (In saying that, who knows if they re-attempted it once we left).
To give you an idea of the volume of water at Belmore on that day, check this out.
What can we do?
This is where I’m at though; we can choose to berate these guys through social humiliation (which the video very much ignited) OR we can look at the evidence in front of us and try to assess why they made they decisions in the first place. If we fall back to this whole Darwinism tirade then I feel like we’re failing as people. I’ve seen really intelligent people do really dumb things in outdoor environments because:
a) they aren’t experience or practiced in it, and
b) because their grey matter simply isn’t programmed in the same way as others
Saying that this is Darwinism makes no sense, their contribution to humanity could be monumental compared to mine. So how do we help spread the right knowledge?
I see a lot of good things in the We Are Explorers community and to be honest I’m pretty honoured to get to work alongside Henry as much as I do. I feel like everyone is of like minds and there’s a great deal of power in that. I also get that this is a ridiculously complex issue with a magnitude of solutions (and problems for that matter). I’m just an optimist at heart and I refuse to give up the good fight. I want everyone to explore this amazing planet.
Maybe those young kids on Sunday were a bit shy or embarrassed to ask us if we’d crossed? If they had slipped though, I have no doubt in my mind that it was game over for them. How crazy is that? We need to be more approachable. Maybe I need to shave my beard to look friendlier? As a community we need to work together though, that’s for sure. Henry and I already do little tours teaching the fundamentals of camping and photography, but we can only reach so many.
As I mature and move more into management roles I have consciously noticed my patience slowly diminish, I made a choice a while back to always take a moment to consider all the options before deciding on a solution. Maybe we can all apply a little of that here.