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Mother Nature can be brutal, but somehow throughout thousands of years we homo-sapiens have endured. Through the process of natural selection the strongest have survived while the weakest perish under the burden of their own flaws. Survival of the fittest!
Charles Darwin typically gets credited with that phrase, "Survival of the Fittest", but it was actually Herbert Spencer who coined it in 1864. What might be more surprising is that our modern concept of the "fittest" is far from it's original meaning. Darwin and Spencer both used the term to indicate a species ability to reproduce effectively and it had very little to do with a species being bigger, faster, or stronger than another. So, now you know why the human population continues to grow and spread in spite of many of us not necessarily being bigger, faster, or stronger than the last generation. Any species that is efficient at reproduction in its adapted environment is thereby "Fit" enough to survive. What does this mean? It means you and I are not necessarily physically superior to anything else on the planet and therefore have no special get out of danger free card.
Every year and every season thousands of people wander into the wilderness under the delusion that they are bigger, faster, smarter and stronger than all other species around them. They try to pet the buffalo, ride the bear, eat the red berries, and drink from the "fresh" spring creek. They serve as shining examples to the rest of us as they fly, crawl, drift and drag through mother nature.
For those brave individuals I present Darwin's Rules for the Outdoors:
Safety Tip #1 - Never Pick Up Hitch Hiking Bears. In other words don't take animals home with you. Transporting wild animals is not only illegal it's highly dangerous. As much as you love that little baby fox that looks helpless on the side of the road you should never try to pick it up and take it home.
Safety Tip #2 - Warnings Aren't Optional. Take for example this pleasant looking quarry lake near Harpur Hill in Buxton. Despite the highly visible warning signs posted everywhere swimmers, including children, were continually swimming in the lake. The toxic acid levels in the water were so dangerous that it was literally safer to swim in a lake of pure liquid bleach than what they were dunking into. The poisonous waters were a deadly combination of chemicals and rubbish that deceived many swimmers because of the beautiful aqua blue color of the water. Local authorities have since dyed the water black to discourage swimming. The moral of the story is that just because it looks safe you should ALWAYS obey the warning signs.
Safety Tip #3 - Veggies Aren't Always Good For You. Every year hikers and campers put themselves in danger by touching, eating, climbing, and interacting with vegetation they aren't familiar with. Take the time to study the local plant life before making a salad or using it to clean up after a bathroom break. Most of what you have in your cupboards has been highly adapted for human consumption. Nature isn't that convenient. If you aren't trained in the vegetation and its uses then it's probably best to leave it alone.
Safety Tip #4 - Don't Pet Cute and Fuzzies. When people go into the outdoors they often think that wild animals are harmless so long as they aren't carnivores. They see the furry buffalo and think it's docile like a cow. Well, just talk to a local cattle rancher and they'll tell you how safe even a domesticated cow can be. Aside from the cute and fuzzy animals you may encounter there are the small and nasty variety that should be considered. Mosquitoes alone are responsible for almost 3 million deaths in the world every year. In the United States over 50 people per year die from bee and wasp stings. At least 31 people per year, on average, are killed by their household dog! So, be smart and don't pet the wild ones!
Safety Tip #5 - Mushrooms Aren't Safe. Especially Flaming Gasoline Mushrooms. Thanks to Smokey the Bear, most people are aware of the dangers of forest fires. What goes more unnoticed are the countless amount of preventable injuries and deaths that occur when people don't respect small fires. Tossing foreign objects into campfires is a recipe for disaster. You may not be the type to toss a jug of gasoline into the flames, but a mere unopened can of soup can become a flaming grenade of red hot shrapnel waiting to explode. Don't play with fire, but also don't underestimate it.
Safety Tip #6 - You Aren't a Ninja. Falling deaths and injuries are one of the most common accidents in the outdoors. A simple hop from on boulder to another can lead to a serious mechanical injury. Spraining a toe from a seemingly easy jump across a creek could leave you stranded overnight without proper gear. Be honest with yourself and know your physical limitations. Take a moment to find a safe way across or down.
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