Nature is grand both in big spaces, such as mountain cliffs and ocean horizons, and in small patches, as in one leaf, a square foot of roadside, or a plant curled around a building column. Nature rewards the attentive. From the time he was a boy, Richard Louv has known this as much as anyone on the planet. For years, Louv has been saying that, individually and collectively, too many of us are tuning out nature and teaching our children to grow up with this deprivation as well.
On an evening in late October, Louv brought his message about “nature-deficit disorder” and the solutions to it to a packed lecture hall at SUNY New Paltz. The author of eight books, Louv coined this term to capture the malady and the consequences of living with no direct connection to nature. In myriad ways, too many adults have forged the kind of world where children learn about saving the rainforest in their online lessons, but they do not play outside in the schoolyard. Too often, children and adults have their eyes glued to screens, but they fail to look out windows. “I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are,” Paul, then a fourth-grader in San Diego, told Louv, according to a passage in his book Last Child in the Woods, which examines the lack of nature in children’s lives, its link to illnesses and societal problems, and the ways to address this harmful trend.
Freeing Kids, Not Scaring Them
The consequences of living a life unconnected to nature are toxic to children and destructive to society and the Earth. However, Louv’s voice is not one of pessimism, and he has formed a social movement out of his concerns. “We have to remind ourselves that we can be hopeful,” he told the SUNY audience on Oct. 21. In fact, he said, the emphasis on climate change and environmental degradation has left too many children overwhelmed by a sense that they can do little to change the fates and heal the world from the ill effects. Instead, Louv exhorted, “we need to go to a place of irrationality” and believe we can solve these problems. [Read more →]