Get outside and play!

Sunday morning, 11:00, and I had the river bank all to myself. Aside from all the noise of vehicles scurrying across the bridges, it was eerily silent. I glanced at my watch, perplexed. Shouldn't the park be full of people catching the rays on a rare, rain-free day? Where is everyone?

The environmentalist David Suzuki would answer by explaining society's growing nature deficit. He wryly stated, "no child should be naturally dumb". Suzuki is concerned about the dominance of screen time in our life, which leads to a nature disconnect. This nature disconnect is a downward spiral, with a decline in our health and the state of the environment inevitable. His concerns should not be perceived as abstract or irrelevant. The problem is evident in all cities, everywhere. This is a rapidly growing problem that must be addressed.

By and large, getting people outdoors is a challenge to be tackled by individuals and families, not policy-makers. However, governments cannot simply observe as the population shuts the windows, turns on the AC and plops in front of the TV. Our governments not only have an obligation, but also an economic incentive, to find policies that assist families and individuals in enjoying the outdoors. The policies follow an underlying assertion: if you build it, they will come. If you build a park, people will come and have picnics. Or, for a more relevant matter, if you provide a recycling system, people will recycle.

One of the type priorities is to make cities more favorable for active forms of transportation and recreation. Cycling, walking, running, rollerblading and skateboarding are fun activities that lighten up communities. Cycling, in particular, is a vital and growing method of transportation that Saskatoon must accommodate. We need cycling infrastructure to not only meet the demand, but exceed it. A glut of bike lanes, locking stations, and awareness of campaigns will be conducive to encourage commuters to go out for bike rides, for both commuting and recreation. Similarly, we should also support walking and running by maintaining and building new parks, paths and sidewalks.

A riverside walk would not be as pleasurable with a mucky and polluted river. That's why governments need to enact environmental policies and organizations to supervise. We need non-profit, government funded, environmental stewards. These groups carry out top quality work, only possible with government funding. Citizens must also do their part in conservation.

Our tax dollars are also well spent funding leisure services. Leisure services are a tremendous community investment and should remain be a top priority. Everyone can recognize the value of subsidized golf courses, swimming pools, spray parks, tennis courts, zoo and other activities around the city.

Periodically, it's nice to escape the city life and experience the wild. Summer camps, including those faith based, are great ways to do so for kids and teenagers. From general maintenance costs to assisting children in financial need, summer camps can be challenging to operate. They are another high-quality investment that must be expanded in the future.

Even with government money, however, there are no guarantees that the problem will be solved. In the end, it's up to the individual to take initiative and spend more time outdoors. There are so many ways to experience the outdoors, but we can hardly demand that governments maintain the quality when usage is so low. So with that, take the first step by stepping outdoors and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Get outside and play!

What are your thoughts on this? Do we get outdoors enough? If not, what are the consequences?