Last year, parent, chairman of the Children & Nature Network, and author Richard Louv (recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal) released an updated and expanded copy of his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. While he is not a trained psychologist, and does not suggest that nature-deficit disorder is a diagnosable disease, Louv does compile a number of anecdotes and compelling interviews to create a case for the decrease in access to nature that today’s children seem to suffer. Louv implicates technology and litigious society alike in claiming that today’s youth do not have the experiences that people of previous generations did in the outdoors.
Due to the increased access to electronic devices, children spend less time outside and more time “plugged in”. In addition, the fear of lawsuits resulting from children being injured on private property and the increased incidence of litigation from parents has also reduced the experiences children have in nature. Louv suggests that previous generations did not have the same over-protective attitude toward children in nature, largely evidenced by these two developments.
The issue at hand for sustainability and caring for the commons is that those children who are disconnected from the natural world do not have the wherewithal to save it from potential destruction. Louv believes that schools, parents, non-profits, and faith-based organizations all have a responsibility for helping children connect with the outdoors in order to have a greater appreciation for what it has to offer from educational, aesthetic, and spiritual perspectives. While Louv cites the need for further study, he does refer to research that has drawn a preliminary link between exposure to nature and decreased incidences of attentional deficits among children.
Perhaps the most striking addition to his 2008 edition is the wealth of resources that Louv has compiled. Not only has he reported back on some of the steps being taken, mostly in Western Europe, but he included a list of 100 actions that can be taken by children and their families, communities, health care providers, governments, and individuals to build a movement that shows an appreciation for nature and all that it provides.
In the end, Louv’s book is about a connection to place. This is a fundamental concern in the realm of educating for sustainability and so-called place-based education. By appreciating and forming a bond with the natural world, and one’s surroundings in particular, people have a greater sense of responsibility and work to ensure the health of the commons.
[image source: RichardLouv.com]