Rick's Journal

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My Bigger Vision, Part One

Austin Wright studies tracks in the mud along the Cherry Valley Creek
This is hard for me to write, but it's important that I spell it out.   I will try to cut to the chase and leave out all the emotional story and all that, because time is of the essence, and also because, well, it's brutal math.

For the past 25 years, I have been the director of Hawk Circle.   It started small, and consisted of over night camps, day and weekend workshops, and one on one mentoring and apprenticeships, and has grown to include residential trainings, after school programs, class trip retreats, adult skills intensives, father/son programs, rites of passage retreats and more.

I would have to say that, in the last fifteen years or so, we have trained, touched, taught or guided about 500 students a year.   So, that's a total of 7,500 people.   

During the ten years prior to that, we didn't have land we could run programs on consistently year round, so I would say that the number of people I could teach, along with my apprentices and staff, would be roughly a third of that number per year, so, it was about 165 people touched or taught per year.   That brings a ten year total for that stretch to be about 1,650 people.

My grand total of my personal impact in my wilderness education career, is probably in the neighborhood of about 9,150 people.  I could be off by a few hundred, either way.  It could be a lot more, but it could also be less, depending on how you measure 'teaching, touching their lives, mentoring or other meaningful impact.

I mean, seriously, some of the people in these numbers were people who I didn't know very long, such as at a college campus visit, who managed to learn a lot in an hour or two hanging out, talking about skills, and other people who are mixed in with these numbers are people who spend a year or more at our Hawk Circle community and grew tremendously in a myriad of different ways.   So, it's tough to measure.

Trista Haggerty, Jen Buchanan, Ariana Deignan-Kosmides
and Jesse Haggerty work on the Hawk Circle Cob Oven
In any event, even if I stretched that number into a nice, round figure and called it 10,000, well, it doesn't matter.   Because even if I look at all those awesome people, the kids, the adults, the staff, the parents, it's not enough.

When I look at all the numbers, of all the wilderness schools in the US right now, well, let's just say that there are maybe 10 schools per state.   There probably are more in some states, and less in others.   So, it's a nice round way of just making the math easy to follow.

At 10 schools per state, and our 50 states, that brings us to roughly 500 wilderness schools.  I am including gatherings as part of this, too.  

Lets just say for argument's sake, that each school, in it's career, up to this point, has had the same impact as I have with Hawk Circle.  Yes, I know that some schools are very tiny, and other schools are much more massive and impactful.  Let's just agree that it evens out.

At 10,000 students impacted in a meaningful way (I rounded up my own impact to make the math easy), multiplied by 500 schools, that gives us a total of 5,000,000.   Five million people, impacted over the last 25 years.

At first when I saw that number, I thought, "Wow!   That's freakin' awesome!"   

Seriously, it really is.  I mean, how amazing it is that we've gone from having 20 people sitting in a barn at the first Tracker School, to having gatherings of 500 to 1,000 people or more in different parts of the country.  That's cool.  It's a good thing.   It means that we are growing, and probably growing as fast as we can, given the resources and training that is slowly being transferred to new students all the time.

We should all feel great about that.  Every one of us, whether we are students of the craft, or mentors, or long time teachers or whatever, well, we are a part of that.  It's quite an accomplishment.  Especially since it's happened organically, with just passion and love for nature and the old ways and little else.

But seriously, think about it for a minute.

There are over 300 Million people in the US, maybe as high as 350 Million.  (I don't have exact census numbers right now and I don't feel like looking it up.)   But it's close to those numbers.   

Our 5 Million people touched is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the population as a whole.   It's not enough to change our culture's direction.

In my intuitive perspective (I am not claiming anything scientific here or statistically accurate numbers!) I think we have to get at least 10% of the population deeply connected to nature.   Call it the Hundredth Monkey theory, if you will.   (If you don't know that theory, Google it and check it out.  It might be debunked but it's still a cool theory!)  

Okay, maybe you don't agree with me on this, and that's fine.  Honestly, I think we need to get to closer to 50% of the population, actually, but that gets really depressing if I think of how hard I have had to work for my first 25 years, and only reach 10,000.   It means we won't make it in time, before we literally poison ourselves, run out of fuel and all the other scary things that I won't go into.

So, let's look at this first goal of just 10%.   In that scenario, we need to connect with another 20 million people in the next 5 years or so.  Maybe ten, at the outside furthest measurement.  If we take too long to reach that goal, we are putting our species future at greater and greater risk.

Okay, back to that 20 Million.   

So, how will we be able to reach 20 million more people in the next five years?

Well, if we divide 20 million people by an average of 500 students taught per year, we need 40,000 (forty thousand) schools or instructors teaching those kids.

The First Aurora Waldorf School Eighth Grade Class Trip at Hawk Circle
That's the bare minimum of trained, effective, amazing and powerful instructors needed to make this happen.

Pretty crazy, huh?

Yeah, that's how I felt.

So, this is the math that brought me to doing my summit on Nature Connection, with 29 speakers about the state of our planet and our connection and more, called The Wolverine Way.    (You can still listen to the interviews and hear their collected wisdom, by the way!)

This is why, for the past eighteen months, I have been focused on this bigger, scarier vision of what we ACTUALLY NEED TO DO to make a meaningful impact on our culture and our society, and our future as a species.

I decided, tonight, right now, that I am actually going to go for it.

I am going to try to find a way, to team up with whoever will join me, to train and mentor and support and connect, whatever, to reach a goal of 40,000 new wilderness skills or nature instructors.

I am deadly serious about this.   I don't really think there is any other more meaningful use of my life than to find a way to make this happen.

Yes, there is a spiritual calling to this, but it's not the only calling.   It's practical.   It's not that mystical.   We just have to find a way to make it happen.

Me, after a Boys Rite of Passage at Severn Run primitive camp, MD
So, here's the plan.   In order to teach hundreds and thousands of wilderness skills instructors, trackers and educators, we need facilities where they can come and learn.  Not just shacking up in tents and a wing and a prayer.  We need to know we can teach these folks the right way, with all of our available energy put into making that teaching the very best it can be, without a lot of logistical distraction.   So, we are building Eagle House, here at Hawk Circle, as a workshop room that can hold up to 50 people.   We have cabins and a lean to that can house about 18 people, and we need about three or four more cabins.

We need a dining hall that can feed that many people inside when the weather is cold, and we need housing for our staff too, so we can keep them renewed and fresh for each day of training.

That's one way that I want to start, so we can begin that process of getting these people trained in a big way.

I want to be clear about this:   I don't have all the answers. 

I know that I can teach a lot of people to be excellent instructors in a fairly short period of time.  I know that we can also get those people through some experiential, on the job training too, that will get them up to speed and get them even more effective.

I know I can teach some of the more serious folks how to be great program directors, too.  That is another level of work, but it can be done, and done very well.

And, I can also teach instructors who don't currently have a school or a program going on to grow their business and their impact, and get much bigger results.  With their clients as well as their bottom line.

All of this has to be able to work financially, too, so I am working on how to help make that happen as well.   Because if we can't get those 40,000 instructors paid to do the work they are trained to do, then we aren't going to reach those 20 million kids out there.

So, it's late, I'm tired and I'm going to go to bed and sleep on it.  And tomorrow, I am going to write more, to share a few more of my ideas.  I might record it as a video, even, just to do this a little faster.

But you can trust me on this, we're doing this.  

The big question is:   Are you with me?


  1. 100%. Thank you for living your vision.

    1. We all need to step up and do the best we can. I'll keep going, but we are going to need everyone! And we are going to make it. It's gonna be great!

  2. I admire your vision and courage. As a physician I have often wondered how I can get my patients connected to nature as part of their healing process. Any thoughts?