In 1800, about five percent of the U.S. population lived in cities. We were largely an agricultural society, and we worked and thrived on the land and its abundant resources.
But by 1920, 50 percent of our population lived in cities and then President Theodore Roosevelt voiced concern over urbanization and he warned against the dangers urbanization posed to our society. He predicted that without wilderness and wild game upon which men could hunt, to which men from urban areas could retreat, the nation would lose “masculine values” and, perhaps, our democracy.
Today, approximately 80 percent of our U.S. population lives in urban areas, and we as a people are more disconnected from nature and the land than ever before. This has been a common topic for me as we strive to educate the public to the benefits of hunting and the outdoors, however, there is a far, far greater threat. It’s not just the loss of our outdoor traditions we should be worried about — rather we should also be fearful for the fate of America.
Roosevelt called it the “emasculation of the American male.” He said that American democracy was established and sustained by men who were self-reliant, willing to work hard to support themselves, their families, and American industry. Men with these values were committed to bettering themselves, and were willing and able to defend the nation and their communities from threats, both foreign and domestic.
However, Roosevelt contended that men who were “emasculated by urbanization” would lose their willingness and ability to work, be unable to support themselves and their families, and fail in their commitment to their communities. Roosevelt said that without the outdoors and without hunting, the nation would be overcome by idleness.
Is it a coincidence that — since the anti-hunting, animal activist movement first took root over the past three decades that now men between the ages of 18 and 34 are the biggest users of video games and more adult men are still living with their parents? Is it another coincidence that welfare entitlements have skyrocketed over those same decades, and more people than ever before are dependent upon government hand-outs?
I don’t think so. The idleness that Roosevelt warned us about is upon us, and sportsmen are now the final bastion and the last hope of our American outdoor traditions and conservation. It’s up to us to carry the torch that ignites a spark within our youth about the outdoors and shines as a beacon to all Americans. Just as President Roosevelt warned nearly 100 years ago. to lose our connection with wildlife is to lose what it means to be Americans.
I am privileged to partner with many organizations that work to re-introduce the outdoors to our youth and educate the general public as to the importance of the outdoors and agriculture. We should always be looking for more ways to tell more people that the outdoors is good, and I encourage all sportsmen to get involved in spreading the word, not amongst ourselves, but to the 80 percent of our population now living in urban areas.
Roosevelt instinctively understood the connection we, as Americans, have with nature. He knew the outdoors helps turn boys into confident, resourceful men with well-defined character — the type of men we need as leaders to honor the laws and defend our country.
And we need good leaders today more than ever.