Outdoor Education? Or a giant theme park?

The person in the top right of this photo is one of my students, she readily dives into situations in the outdoors, knowing the risk and accepting the responsibility and consequences that comes with it. However there does seems to be a big difference between enjoying the outdoors and understanding the outdoors. It seems appropriate outdoor education in and of our world is needed more than ever. The recent shark attacks in the Whitsundays are devastating and I can’t imagine how I would feel if it were my wife or my daughter who had been bitten. I am, however, unsure of the environmental or zoological logic behind Fisheries Queensland actions?. “Fisheries Queensland has set three baited drum lines in Cid Harbour in a bid to catch the shark or sharks responsible”. I understand this may make people feel better, or safer, however I think we as people have a tendency to anthropomorphise or project human traits on to the shark.

We are not going to teach the shark or other sharks a lesson by catching it and killing it, nor are we going to set an example to the other sharks by showing them “this is what we will do if you bite a human”. Sharks don’t have hands, they can only test something with their mouth. They hunt by sonar particularly in poor visibility situations like you find in CID Harbour. They hunt mostly at dusk. They don’t get a taste for human blood. And although they can be territorial they can also be hierarchical. Are we just going to keep killing them when they get to a certain size?

I really believe the ever growing outdoor education movement needs to educate people about the outdoors. Yes, it is there to be enjoyed and we should enjoy it but it is not a giant theme park that we can make safe, if we could it would no longer be the great outdoors, it would be a lifeless place where everything could be predicted and nothing exciting ever happened.

Animals are not humans, particularly marine animals. They do not behave like us. They don’t take responsibility. And they do not consciously attack humans. They bite what MIGHT be food. If they are hungry. They attack if they feel threatened.

I would like to think, that culturally, we are past the process of “it bit us, let’s kill it”. They are not humans, we are not going to teach them a lesson, but we have a lot learn.

Bless you all,


Ps Yes I will be flying to the Whitsundays in a week and a half to cruise the islands for a week. No I won’t be swimming in CID Harbour (we never do) and yes me and my 9 year old daughter will be snorkelling the Corel reefs together. Because life and our planet is an unpredictable, beautiful and exciting place to be. I will post photos when we get back.

Published by ianpriley

Photographer, Educator, Ecologists

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