Although somewhat familiar to us, scouting (aka urban exploring) is not a word we frequently hear outside of military circles. The term, however, is not of military origin. Scouting is the activity of studying a landscape.
In the not too distant past, young Americans scouted quite often. Urban exploring was something everyone did. This yielded tremendous benefits to cities for it allowed individuals to form diverse connections and fertilize new territories.
Scouting began to decline as cultural shifts emerged. Helicopter parents gave a significant blow to this practice by shielding children from diversity and autonomous exploration. Children became more or less incarcerated either at home or in schools. The new killer element that put a severe halt to scouting however was television. It took people away from the streets and kept them inside homes.
Once the tube was born, a whole array of similar gadgets followed. TV was followed by video game consoles, gameboys, and eventually, cell phones. Many people boldly claim that they do not watch TV, yet, they are glued to their cell phones.
All this screen staring turned our men and women into a passive collective. The youth fell sedentary and voyeurism became a norm. Hypnotized by a cell phone, urban exploring was abandoned.
Today, a lack of urban exploration has created hyper-isolation in society. Each person lives in a tiny pseudo-world which mainly consists of home, work, and friends. The daily walking pattern of the person is unvaried, almost as if they are stuck in a loop.
The daily routine of home-work-bars appears harmless on the surface, but it is actually quite dangerous. Routine atrophies the brain because you are not getting the novelty required to exercise new brain cells. These daily routines also cause the brain to reinforce only a narrow network, rendering you into a flat 2-dimensional being.
There is, however, a grave side to all this. Lack of urban exploring renders a city commercially weak and physically vulnerable. Only businesses in prime streets remain stimulated – wealth is not evenly circulating. Housing weakness also occurs because adventurers are not encouraged to build new communities on unexplored territories. Everyone remains crowded in already known locations and fiercely competes for lodging. This creates housing price explosions such as what we see in San Francisco or New York.
A lack of scouts eventually drags a country into fragility because its inhabitants do not know its terrains. In case of war or natural disasters, it is important that the local population knows the nooks and crannies that are suitable for refuge and areas they can use to extract resources.
A classic example of such a mistake is France in 1940. During WWII, Germany invaded France in order to strategically place its army against England. The rapidly failure of the French defense was greatly due to its lack of scouts. The French lacked contextual knowledge of their terrains and landscape advantages. They did not know where to best place their men for an effective offensive, nor were they aware of natural pockets they could have used to conceal their combatants. They were ignorant of their own lands. They were still using outdated methods of combat from WWI, while the German scouts made use of the terrain for great tank maneuvers. It only took 6 weeks for France to be defeated.
I doubt war will take place here in the U.S. We are moving past the era of “Total War”. Despite this fact, lets not commit the mistake of neglecting to scout our land. We have much social and commercial benefit to gain from doing so. Those of you who would like to learn more about scouting, I highly recommend you check out the article on the type of scouts. There you will learn what kind of scouts there are on CityXcape along with how to sign up to become one.