The Joy of Unplugging: Turning Off Technology in the Amazon Jungle

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”–Helen Keller

Twenty-eight citizen scientists from the California Academy of Sciences traveled to the Amazon jungle for eight days this summer. Their mission: to document their observations of the forest canopy for science, and to contribute knowledge of insect biodiversity for conservation. But the overarching, and unexpected benefit for all participants, including me, was the pure joy of unplugging from technology. Absolute bliss was redefined: 1. hearing bird songs without traffic in the background; 2. talking thoughtfully to people without interruptive ringtones; 3. absorbing the smells and sights of a tropical jungle; and 4. turning off those over-stressed circuits in our brains accustomed to responding 24/7 to bells, lights, and email requests; and 5. an absence of anxiety attacks caused by multi-tasking in our technology-driven world.

Our home-away-from-home on this trip, the complex tropical rainforest, already provides those of us who live in America with enormous creature comforts: fresh water, oxygen, fruits, carbon storage, medicines, fabrics, construction materials, and climate control, to name a few. But for our unsuspecting group of American community leaders and students who ventured away from their daily lives to the Amazon, the absolute absence of technology was one of the jungle’s unexpected gifts. In our material world of trappings that constantly nag at our pocketbooks and neuro-circuits, we often forget about the spiritual power of Mother Nature to inspire our sense of wonder. In the Amazon jungles, we ate healthy foods and rekindled our five senses.

Five years ago, Richard Louv wrote a best-selling book, called Last Child in the Woods, that decried our American lifestyle of keeping children indoors and depriving them of the natural world. He explained that kids who play outside —> Read More