October 07, 2009
Video Games Threat To Nature?

Video game addicts get so little experience with nature that they do not develop a love and support for the great outdoors.

Serious hikers and backpackers tend to become supporters of environmental and conservation groups while casual woodland tourists do not, a new study says -- and a recent fall-off in strenuous outdoor endeavors portends a coming decline in the ranks of conservation backers.

Oliver Pergams, visiting research assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Patricia Zaradic, director of the Red Rock Institute in Pennsylvania, made headlines in early 2008 with a study showing that a steady decline in nature recreation since the late 1980s correlated strongly with a rise in playing video games, surfing the Internet and watching movies -- an unhealthy trend they called "videophilia."

Now Pergams and Zaradic, along with Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, have found that only people who engage in vigorous outdoor sports, like hiking and backpacking, tend later to become supporters of mainline conservation groups, while those who only go sightseeing or fishing do not. Their findings are reported Oct. 7 in PLoS ONE, an online publication of the Public Library of Science.

I notice with some commenters a greater love of the creations of humans than of the natural wonders. This probably partly explains the indifference some express to the plight of nature due to human population growth and industrialization.

Will humans in the long term become less and less interested in natural environments and more supportive of artificial managed ecologies?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 October 07 12:11 AM  Comm Tech Society

Lono said at October 7, 2009 8:27 AM:

"Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese."

- M. Burns

While extremist the author of that quote does make a good point - nature has always been out to get us - it up to us (as a sentient species) to tame it and turn it into something that accomadates us - rather than the age old mutating to fit our environment bulls**t!

So I actually think an irrational adoration of "nature" is just as detrimental as a callous indifference to it...

I was born right on the edge of the media/information revolution - so I have one foot firmly planted in both worlds - but I think it takes intelligence and empathy - rather than just experience - to have a strong appreciation of our ecology and our place within the ecosystem of the Earth.

And until men of understanding take over the Political Systems of this planet - short sighted exploitation of all natural resources will continue to be the order of the day!

Carpe Diem people - while there's still a planet worth salvaging!

David Govett said at October 7, 2009 9:34 AM:

Gamers would be satisfied with a wilderness in virtual reality.

Tom Billings said at October 7, 2009 10:33 AM:

The most interesting point about gamers is that the anti-industrial propaganda of the "Deep Ecology" faction now growing to dominate environmentalism still seems to work on them at all. This happens even though data continues to pile up that we have not had a "wild" state of nature at any time in the last 10 millenia. Pre-Columbian Americas, and most of the rest of the planet, were deeply and purposefully affected by the human populations for millenia. The North American forests mourned by the hikers were *not* "wild", but managed by the 500 Nations as hunting preserves for millenia before the Great Plagues killed 90 percent of the 500 Nations' people, allowing the most obvious signs of management to become completely overgrown. This let the newly arrived immigrants stay ignorant of what that management was.

Botkin and others at UCSB have shown, as early as the late 1970s, that populations of species, including those of forest trees, *normally* have *vast* fluctuations. These are not the work of humans, but of functions of ecology we do not yet understand with much certainty. The problem here is that those who want power over others are afraid to talk to scientists who admit that "We don't know" is the truthful answer. So, they accept theories others with science degrees make up, based on scanty or nonexistent data, and then sell these as "consensus".

I like hiking in the woods as much as anyone. I simply don't make excuses for coercing others to not make use of that land in some other way. Gaming has less to do with it than the fact that "Earth Day" religion is losing its hold on the youngest, who by now are not impressed with the institutionalized religion that "environmentalism" has been transformed into, even as its chief acolytes gain hold of the levers of power in Washington. D.C.

Ted said at October 7, 2009 10:57 AM:

Yet another on the growing list of "let's blame video games!" It's obnoxious how many people cite games as a cause of so many recent trends whenever there is a correlation. I think it shows a lack of proper judgment and an obvious need for attention on the part of the author. The rise of "videophilia" (which is a cute little flashpoint term) is a complicated trend with many effects on society, but it certainly isn't the only reason that nature recreation is on the decline.

Trent Telenko said at October 7, 2009 1:37 PM:

The issue here is that there is now a generational cut off for the environmental movement with young straight men who are middle class and lower.

AKA in 10 years you are going to see support for all things environmental become "uncool" for the young as it is nothing but dull, PC, cant yammered at them in schools by boring adult women trying to keep young men bored and medicated as possible...which is why they go to video games in the first place.

The implications for things like the endangered species act are huge.

Nick G said at October 7, 2009 6:31 PM:


when you say So, they accept theories others with science degrees make up, based on scanty or nonexistent data, and then sell these as "consensus".

Are you talking about climate change theories?

Randall Parker said at October 7, 2009 7:00 PM:

Tom Billings,

Did you read my FuturePundit review Alan Weisman: The World Without Us? Weisman does an excellent job of explaining how we've changed nature and what nature was like without us. The book is very good natural history.

Humans in the Americas are notably far more disastrous in the effects on the environment as compared to Africa because the megafauna in Africa evolved along humans and learned to stay away from humans. So the number of megafauna species that survived human contact in Africa is far higher than in the Americas. The supposedly all natural and wise Amerinds wiped out large numbers of species.

I really do not understand the chain of logic you think you've presented with your references to vast natural fluctuations leading to some claim of ignorance that is, what, supposed to undermine arguments for conservation? The human-caused species declines come on top of natural fluctuations. In the Americas after the Amerinds wiped out lots of megafauna along came Europeans and using much more powerful technology we wiped out more species such as the carrier pigeon. That's not a natural fluctuation. That's total destruction.

By this logic I'm guessing you must oppose national parks:

I like hiking in the woods as much as anyone. I simply don't make excuses for coercing others to not make use of that land in some other way.

National parks amount to coercion so that wolves, bison, long horn sheep, and other creatures can survive. You opposed?

I think Teddy Roosevelt and other patricians (really ruling from the top down) did us a great favor in pushing thru the national parks.

Fat Man said at October 7, 2009 9:43 PM:

Anything that will slow the spread of the idiocy and arrogance that is environmentalism.

Mthson said at October 8, 2009 2:34 AM:

What value do wolves and bison have for humankind? Some people go take photos of them while on vacations. That's all, right?

I'm much more interested in building our economy, advancing medicine, and not having to tell my loved ones they have to die because we were lazy.

Steve said at October 8, 2009 7:36 PM:


1- We have to eat something. Bison are tasty. We've primarily replaced bison with cattle, but something's got to turn grass into meat for us to eat.
2- Ranchers shoot the wolves (or, usually, complain to the goverment that it should shoot wolves for them, in between telling the government to get out of their lives while running sheep and cattle on federal land at heavily subsidized rates), then complain about the coyotes.
Then, they shoot the coyotes (or, usually, complain to the government, who shoots and poisons them) and complain that the field rodents are out of control and eating all the grain, so the grass doesn't seed properly. Not to mention we can't plant anything in our yards in the suburbs because the deer are out of control and eat it all.
(These are just a couple examples: the list goes on and on.)

It sounds like you need to do some ecology reading, because you're not grasping the concept of an ecosystem...aif you think humans are a functional replacement, please feel free to go out and catch some mice and squirrels for dinner.

Mthson said at October 8, 2009 8:41 PM:

Ecosystems are constantly changing in response to new pressures, so the current state at any given time isn't magical.

New pressures on complex systems can produce secondary costs, but in the big picture, as long the benefits outweigh the costs, humankind comes out ahead.

Similarly, new technologies tend to produce secondary costs, like carpal tunnel syndrome and widespread obesity, but a rejection of technology in general wouldn't be reasonable (although there are those would try...).

I think we can all see the point of conserving bison habitats, provided there are concrete benefits to doing so. There are, however, costs to everything.

deet13 said at October 9, 2009 6:27 PM:

I can't wait until these watermelon Luddites finally frag themselves.

They're worse than the bible thumpers who keep trying to ban my favorite FPS's.

Randall Parker said at October 10, 2009 10:06 AM:


You are right that the current state of the ecosystem at any given time isn't magical. However, lots of possible states of the ecosystem are much worse than what we have now.


What are watermelon Luddites?

Mthson said at October 10, 2009 3:20 PM:

I see one internet commentator defined "watermelon Luddites" as "green on the outside and commie red on the inside, with a disdain for any technology that might advance our lives."

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