Sunday, 6 July 2008


Recently we attended one of the Alfred Deakin Lectures called the Geography of Hope and a key message of Dr Brian Walker, one of the speakers, was that climate change is going to bring change on a scale that most of us have never experienced before - he called it "The Gathering Storm." He suggested that in order to accommodate this change the thing we will need most is resilience. I have heard a similar message about resilience in another context. In this case the message was about the importance of building resilience to allow our children to cope in a time of ever increasing technological change and the important role of teaching our children to engage with risk to build that resilience.

Unfortunately this is occurring at a time when we, as a society are becoming significantly more risk averse. I heard one academic from the UK describe this as 'cotton-wooling' our children. He described a test that was used by one council in the UK to test the soft-fall used under climbing frames and other equipment in playgrounds. This test used a china plate dropped from shoulder height. If the china plate broke then the soft-fall failed the test. Treating children like china plates provides a useful metaphor for risk management gone too far.

I have heard another academic warn that in our attempts to eliminate risk from the lives of our children that we were also preventing them from the significant benefits and learnings that come from engaging with risk in a controlled environment. He suggested that there was evidence that this may lead to young people finding more dangerous ways to experience that adrenaline rush through for example illicit drugs or driving dangerously.

In our efforts to protect our children from all risks in an attempt to keep them safe, then what other risks are we exposing them to long term? Obesity, depression, mental illness, substance abuse?

Clearly nobody wants their child to be hurt and I am not proposing a reckless approach to risk - but does that really need to extend to "bubble wrapping" them in order to protect them from the risks that we perceive to be around every corner, whilst at the same time inadvertently exposing them to long term health risks? I hope not.

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