Plugged In to Nature, Wired to World


With fewer people participating in outdoor activities, retailers and park officials are doing everything they can to coax them into the great outdoors. Hard-core campers may sniff at the level of hand-holding — air mattresses equipped with built-in speakers for MP3 players — but some environmentalists and outdoors advocates applaud the efforts. That's because they worry that a population more familiar with Google than the Grand Canyon ultimately could hurt conservation efforts.

…Researchers Oliver R.W. Pergams and Patricia A. Zaradic found that the drop in outdoor activity coincides with the increase in time people spend on their computers. In 1987, the average person spent zero hours on the Internet. By 2003, it was 174 hours.

"We may be seeing evidence of a fundamental shift away from people's appreciation of nature to 'videophilia,' which we here define as 'the new human tendency to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media,' " the pair said in a 2008 study that examined trends in outdoor recreation.