Since 2004 I’ve been following a little upstart effort to create a new type of scouting group: the Earth Scouts. Along with teaching scouting techniques, the Earth Scouts inculcate Earth-centric values, celebrates diversity, and encourages community activity. Of course, with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts so firmly rooted, it’s a tough challenge to grow this alternative, but now, more than ever, I think this new scouting start-up is essential.
Earlier in the week I learned that the Boy Scouts now offer a badge for video game playing. Yes, you read that right–a badge (okay technically a “belt loop”) for video games. And while I recognize that the Boy Scouts are trying to evolve with the times and perhaps even reduce the harm of video games by ensuring that children choose age-appropriate games and integrate gaming into a balanced chore/homework schedule, this development unfortunately takes us one step further in normalizing video games into the culture and into sanctioned leisure activities for children. With so many children overweight and suffering from “Nature Deficit Disorder,” the Boy Scouts should be doing as much as they can to de-normalize video gaming and get children outside and away from video media.
So, that’s it, I say. I declare that this starts the official decline of the Boy Scouts and that new pioneers should grow, grow, grow to take their place. Groups like the Earth Scouts and Tom Brown’s Way of the Coyote summer camps hopefully offer a glimpse at the future of nature-focused, youth leadership programs—programs that make children aware of their dependence on the Earth and cultivate related values, or in Tom Brown’s words: “ensur[e] the survival of future generations by guiding youth and community to a pure connection with the Earth.”