Friday 25 October 2013

Greens should get behind Project Wild Thing

This evening, along with other members of LEEF I viewed the film Project Wild Thing that was released today. The film sets out to do for children enjoying nature and the outdoors, what Jamie Oliver did for healthy school meals.

David Bond, concerned that his children are glued to their screens and seldom venture out of the house and the impact that this will have on their future health, decides to market 'nature' in the same way that big corporations market their consumer products.

Getting past this initial irony it soon becomes apparent, despite free advertising space and marketing help, that he cannot possibly hope to match the spending of multimillion multinationals. He sets off on a sticker campaign, slapping a 'WARNING: Material goods may make you fat and depressed' on consumer posters. At Speakers' Corner, heckled by a socialist speaker about the irrelevance of what he is saying to the fight against capitalism, he retorts, getting kids outside and outdoors is one of the best ways of avoiding capitalism.

A range of experts including Susan Greenfield, George Monbiot, Chris Packham and Chris Rose give their views; the latter arguing that it is not enough to take kids out to nature: you have to enable them to engage with it.

There are several poignant moments. In one a 10 year old boy takes Bond to the only tiny patch of green grass on his estate, and to the site of another larger patch which is now being built on. He says that if you play ball games where there they are forbidden 'you will get an ASBO'.

Visit the island of Eigg he finds that children there are still influenced by advertising and fixated on the screen, but the difference is that outside play is much more accessible. One Eigg Primary School school child remarks that with outdoor play 'the risk is part of the fun'.

However 'risk' , or rather adult fear of risk, seems from the interviews with adults to be the main reason why children aren't allowed out. Apart from the usual 'stranger danger' fear of cars and traffic is the main reason chidlren are kept in.  As Anna Porch from LEEF said in the discussion 'the freedom that cars have givenm to adults has been taken from their kids'.

The film is well worth seeing but most usefully used as  a discussion starting point in community organisations, parent evenings at school, or campaign meetings. The Wild Network LINK of organisations supporting the campaign have issued the following manifesto:

The Wild Network exists to champion and support connection with nature and wildness in children and young people.
The Wild Network mission is to support children, parents and guardians of children to roam free, play wild and connect with nature.
We believe all children should have the right to access the outdoors for play, learning, expression and development of healthy mind and body.
We encourage, provoke, nudge, support, innovate and campaign for children, kids and young folk to get up and outside.
  • To wander freely
  • To look up and around
  • To find wonder, awe and empathy in all life
  • To nurture, steward and protect
  • To run, jump, climb, crawl and explore the world on our doorsteps
  • To seek imagination in wildness
  • To find inventiveness in the woods.
  • To grow happy healthy minds and bodies.
  • To find comfort in solitude.
  • To become truly connected.
 Roam Free. Play Wild

You can sign up to the manifesto as an organisation or an individual on the website.


weggis said...

... and we are marketing this using a computer screen!

Martin Francis said...

Yes, a theme throughout the film: using the enemies' weapons against them. One of the less convincing sections of the film is a Smartphone App suggesting to kids what they could do outside for specified periods of time.