Remember to keep the main thing the main thing.
— My father, Carl Bahls
There are two annoyances in the Arctic — mosquitoes and bears. High in the Arctic, mosquitoes can swarm you by the hundreds. You might be the only warm-blooded creature in 25 square miles. And it is not uncommon to run across bears — polar bears in Hudson’s Bay and the Arctic Ocean and grizzly bears inland.
It strikes me that these are two very different annoyances. Mosquitoes are a nuisance that are easy to deal with — wear loose clothes with a tight weave and wear a bug net or bug shirt. You can’t prevent encounters with mosquitoes, but it‘s easy to protect yourself.
Bears are another matter. Bears are not merely a nuisance, they are a threat. Generally you can prevent encounters by not surprising them. And if you surprise them, you should be able to scare them off with pepper spray, but only if you know how to use it effectively.
The main thing in the Arctic should not be swatting mosquitoes, but it should be good practices in bear country.
In our daily lives, there are annoyances like mosquitoes and there are threats like bears. Mosquito-like annoyances include petty politics, insecure people who spread their insecurities, and “know-it-alls.” In higher education, the bears are threats to the safety of our students, threats to student learning and threats to the ability of our students to pay for their education. We need to spend less time swatting at annoyances and more time ensuring good practices for the main thing — ensuring our students have the highest quality education.
(See also Jane Bahls’ Arctic Adventures blog).