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Touch the wilderness

By John Thompson - posted Tuesday, 18 October 2011

From the dramatic peaks of mountains to precipitous edges of tortuous gorges, the sculptured red sand ridge of a wind-crafted desert to the surreal void of walking across Lake Eyre, the call of the wild has always left me wondering how all things are inter-connected and lead to "wellness" in our lives.

I remain humbled to this day, by the many naturalists, walkers and adventurers who have trodden the trails, followed their passion, experienced the call of the wild and in doing so made a contribution. People like wilderness photographers Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis who tragically gave their lives that Australian's might discover the beauty and wisdom and take greater care of the wilderness.

A prominent Brisbane businessman and visionary, once engaged my wife and I to take he and his wife into the wilderness for a few days. Relaxed over coffee at the end of the journey, beneath the half moon silhouette of Mt Warning, he concluded we were in the business of slowing people down and every business executive should join us for a wilderness escape, desirably with spouse included, for business and marriages are equally under pressure.


Later, in a monthly publication, he wrote of the great adventurer and author Jack London and his book "The Call of the Wild", about the frontier lands of Canada and Alaska. Our guest believed "remote places are essential to any one needing a regular break from the rat race of acquiring wealth at great personal cost …. that the wilderness meets the aspiration within each one of us to rediscover our souls …. that the wilderness offers immersion in silence which is conducive to beautiful thoughts beyond the treadmill of life ….it is only in silence that anyone can make vital decisions ….that the power of our chosen faith is likely to be discovered in places of beauty and grandeur".

So what is it that causes some great business leaders to revert back to nature? Why is it so, that a wealthy Queenslander should withdraw from the daily operations of his business to apply his wealth, energy and skills in the passionate pursuit of saving tracks of wilderness and old growth forests in SW Tasmania? Or a humble "bean counter" to turn away from a high-powered business career in London to nurture a Wildlife Conservancy regenerating the wilderness in Australia?

To date, much of the focus on wilderness conservation has been confined to the protection of habitats and endangered species, a worthy and timely biophysical pursuit, indeed. However, there is another very compelling issue emerging, the wellness of the human species.

Publications of the International Wilderness Journal remind us of the fact, the human race is born of the natural world in the company of the plants and animals, a primal condition.

Australian indigenous communities have spent 50,000 years finding a sense of place in the wild, living and surviving in physical and spiritual harmony with the Australian landscape in a self-sustaining way. They indeed, were and are in touch with the rhythms of the natural world.

In a relatively short time, western civilisation with its intelligence and perception has assumed, if not imposed, an increasing mastery over the wild, creating built environments, occasionally creating havoc, placing a gulf between man and nature or assuming humanly created concepts and solutions will prevail.


Meanwhile, psychologists suggest we are in danger of building a wall of rationality which feelings can't penetrate, believing emotion is something to be frowned upon.

Within Australia, I'd suggest there are now two generations that have little or no real connection with the wild – term it, nature deficit disorder. The first generation, of which I am part, perceived our wilderness (or the outback) to be dangerous or boring, uncomfortable or uninteresting. They in turn have influenced their sons and daughters into believing there are dangers or risks in nature, in getting dirty - in the pursuit of simple adventures in their lives.

For the younger generations connection with nature can be confined to the computer screen, adventure to the play station. Worst still they can choose to remain disconnected from nature through a preoccupation with technology. Sadly, technology has diluted the broader third dimension in young people's lives – the experience of emotional connection, empathy and dealing eye to eye with the feelings of others and their emotions, of problem solving. Extremism in many forms is now "entertaining" the youthful mind often with tragic outcomes.

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About the Author

John Thompson has designed and led guided tours and walks for Australian and international guests, into Australia’s National Parks and world heritage wilderness areas for 35 years, while also engaged as the principal event management and marketing consultant to a diverse selection of international and national sporting events, major industry expositions, medical and scientific conferences, community, fund raising and human endeavour events.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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