Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space …
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
— Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
In order for our Earth-based spirituality to be a viable, sustainable religious path for the future, one would assume that a prerequisite would be to have personal spiritual encounters with the Earth. As I wrote yesterday, that is increasingly rare, especially for our children.
Most humans now live in urban and suburban settings, where access to the untamed wild is very hard to come by. And our children get the message that spending time alone in the natural world is likely to be uncomfortable and even dangerous. What do we, their role-models, show them about the importance of getting down and dirty with Mother Nature?
In misguided attempts to protect our kids from dangers real and imaginary, we have shut their worlds down to sterile, carefully cultivated “safety,” and thus have removed their ability to explore and discover their own relationship with Gaia.
Last year, an article in the British Daily Mail discussed how, in only four generations, children have lost the right to roam:
“When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere. It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.
“Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas’s eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom. He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.
“Even if he wanted to play outdoors, none of his friends strays from their home or garden unsupervised.
“The contrast between Edward and George’s childhoods is highlighted in a report which warns that the mental health of 21st-century children is at risk because they are missing out on the exposure to the natural world enjoyed by past generations.”
This risk to mental health is real, and even has a name: Nature Deficit Disorder. Next week, I’ll have more to say about what it is, and why it matters.