As we move forward on our journey to Graceland, we honor the lovely Grace, Thalia. Thalia, who is also considered one of the Muses, offers us Her gracious gifts of flowering, laughter, and growth. Surely, Springtime is Her most lush, celebratory time.
But what place do we actually make for Her in our lives? The truth is, for many of us, our exposure to the worlds of flowering, growth, and wild Nature is minimal. And this is increasingly true for our young.
An estimated six million children in the United States are currently taking powerful psychiatric medications, many of which have never even been tested on children. The long-term effects are unknown.
Certainly it is not the solution for all cases, but as I discussed previously, researchers are finding that many of the ills that seem epidemic among our children – attention deficit, obesity, depression, anxiety disorders, and even criminal behavior – can be directly linked to their lack of exposure to the outdoors in general, and Nature in particular.
Dr. William Bird, health adviser to Natural England notes, “”Studies have shown that people deprived of contact with nature are at greater risk of depression and anxiety. Children are getting less and less unsupervised time in the natural environment. If children haven’t had contact with nature, they never develop a relationship with the natural environment and they are unable to use it to cope with stress,” he explains. “They need time playing in the countryside, in parks and in gardens where they can explore, dig up the ground and build dens.”
His report, published by Natural England and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, also found that children’s behavior and schoolwork improve if their playgrounds simply have grassy areas, ponds and trees.
These are not new ideas. As Jeanne Hamming of Scientific American observes, when Theodore Roosevelt championed the preservation of wilderness areas in the United States, he did so in part because “he saw a prophylactic dose of nature as a counter to mounting urban malaise in the early 20th century.”
But in addition to the many physical and emotional benefits for them, there are other, even more urgent reasons for encouraging our children to venture away from their indoor, artificial worlds. Tomorrow, I’ll share some of them with you.