We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
— Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac
The Grace Thalia invites us to participate in Her gifts of laughter, flowering and growth. But adults and children who increasingly shun the natural world are missing the wealth, healing, and soulful joy that She bestows. The reasons behind this alienation from Nature are many and complex, and most are just plain wrong.
As writer Cory Doctorow notes, “Urban, suburban, and even rural parents cite a number of everyday reasons why their children spend less time in nature than they themselves did, including disappearing access to natural areas, competition from television and computers, dangerous traffic, more homework, and other pressures. Most of all, parents cite fear of stranger-danger.
“Conditioned by round-the-clock news coverage, they believe in an epidemic of abductions by strangers, despite evidence that the number of child-snatchings (about a hundred a year) has remained roughly the same for two decades, and that the rates of violent crimes against young people have fallen to well below 1975 levels.
“Yes, there are risks outside our homes. But there are also risks in raising children under virtual protective house arrest: threats to their independent judgment and value of place, to their ability to feel awe and wonder, to their sense of stewardship for the Earth—and, most immediately, threats to their psychological and physical health.”
So what can be done? Plenty!
The man who is at the center of this pivotal moment is Richard Louv. His book, Last Child in the Woods, ignited what can only be described as a crusade to save our children.
Writing recently for Orion Magazine, he notes, “For decades, environmental educators, conservationists, and others have worked, often heroically, to bring more children to nature—usually with inadequate support from policymakers. A number of trends, including the recent unexpected national media attention to Last Child and ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ have now brought the concerns of these veteran advocates before a broader audience.
“While some may argue that the word ‘movement’ is hyperbole,” he writes, “we do seem to have reached a tipping point. State and regional campaigns, sometimes called Leave No Child Inside, have begun to form in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, St. Louis, Connecticut, Florida, Colorado, Texas, and elsewhere.
“A host of related initiatives—among them the simple-living, walkable-cities, nature-education, and land-trust movements—have begun to find common cause, and collective strength, through this issue. The activity has attracted a diverse assortment of people who might otherwise never work together.”
Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the hopeful changes that are being implemented as a result of this fundamental shift for which parents, educators, environmentalists, and health care professionals are all calling.