COMMENT:

What a week. I was increasingly glued to a live feed reporting on the Thai cave rescue. I'm awed by the technical complexity of the rescue and heartened by the assembly of worldwide expertise.

I'm also horrified by what was required of the boys; wriggling through tight pinch points is gut-clenchingly frightening, let alone in the dark in fast running water.

These boys are amazing. They spent nine days trapped on a ledge 600m underground, not knowing if they'd even be found. But the notes they sent to their families were heart-wrenchingly simple and straightforward.

Advertisement

Read more: Rachel Rose: Funerals bring out the best and worst
Rachel Rose: 'Til death, and bureaucracy, do us part

Hungry, trapped in darkness with rising waters and declining oxygen and they still were positive, thinking of their parents and seeking to reassure them.

I wish I were confident a random selection of New Zealand kids would meet a dreadful challenge with such courage.

I've written before about the urgent need to be raising robust and resilient kids who are connected to the natural world and confident in it. In a week of disasters - devastating floods in Japan, continued brinkmanship from Kim and Trump, a baffling death in Amesbury from nerve gas - I return to those thoughts again.

How would a cosseted middle-class kid get on in a crisis, one who doesn't play outside, won't walk to school, and who thinks Wi-Fi is as necessary to life as oxygen? How can an obese kid with diabetes cope in a disaster? A teenager with ADHD? A youngster born addicted to meth or alcohol?

It highlights the value of programmes like Outward Bound and Hillary Outdoors (previously OPC) that throw kids into a (considered) deep-end, where they can discover their own resourcefulness.

Even enrolling your kids in Scouts or Girl Guides is a start. At the very least they'll get outside, learn to tie knots, light a fire and identify a few plants.

As adults we need to be setting an example - valuing our health, keeping active, maintaining some physical competence even as we age, for as long as we can.

The Wild Boars put themselves in a dangerous situation, of a sort few New Zealand kids would face. But sometimes danger comes to us, no matter how much we seek to insulate ourselves.

I've been trying to digest an essay by Douglas Rushkoff on Medium. The New York media theorist was paid the equivalent of half his annual salary to give an hour-long talk about the future of technology. He wasn't expecting a round-table with a handful of people. Billionaire investment bankers, as it turned out.

Slowly but surely, Rushkoff writes, his tiny audience began to air their real topics of concern.

"Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, 'How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?'

"The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr Robot hack that takes everything down. This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour."

Ūber-wealthy American elites are not buying up tracts of New Zealand because they like our scenery or think our accents are cute.

They are intelligent, educated and have access to the best research and analysis money can buy. That analysis is prompting them to buy boltholes and make elaborate preparations to protect their privilege.

Meanwhile, here in Whanganui, a few Chronicle readers are still denying climate change is even happening.

As a community, as a country, we will face increasing challenges. The wisest response is not guarding your personal stockpile, like those American billionaires are planning. There will always be someone else bigger, badder and more desperate than you, who can take what you're hoarding.

The best preparation for disaster is a community that is already closely knit, made up of people who care about and trust each other.

Lyttelton was amazingly resilient following the Canterbury earthquakes, in large part because of existing organisations like its Time Bank. It meant people knew others in their community and what skills could be shared.

We need to recognise the value of the intangible social assets we already have here in Whanganui and build on them.

Perhaps the most important thing is kindness. Our media environment thrives on stirring up outrage and blame. I'm guilty myself, initially blaming the coach for taking the boys into the caves.

But we don't know all the details. I'm humbled by the loving kindness shown to Ake by the parents. In a letter they thanked him for looking after their boys and told him, "Don't blame yourself. We are not mad at you at all."

As Rushkoff says, "Being human is not about individual survival or escape. It's a team sport. Whatever future humans have, it will be together."