The online article “How Nature Nurtures”is a book review by Connie Matthiessen of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. Matthiessen explains:
Louv presents a compelling argument that children, and the rest of us for that matter, require regular contact with nature to maintain physical and emotional health.
Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the consequences of separating children from the natural world.
Personally, this is the first I have heard of this term, but it is something I can relate to by observing the youth of family and friends and the students in my hunter education classes. The goal of the very first assignment I give to the students in my classes, an essay entitled “Why I’m Taking Firearm Safety,” is to get them thinking about the outdoors and the reasons why they desire this experience, whether it be for the excitement of the hunt, family involvement, building relationships with family and friends through the outdoors, just the pure joy that is exploring nature, or all of the above.
Matthiessen goes on to state:
Many parents of hyperactive children notice the calming effect nature has on their sons and daughters. Recent research supports these observations. Louv cites several studies showing that contact with nature can improve a child’s concentration. One study found that even a view of greenery through a window reduced attention-deficit symptoms.
One can see the young mind at work with the fuel of imagination in the series of essays I have started on my hunter education website with the contributions of some of the young, and older, authors. Many of the students write some truly compelling responses in this task, and the reason I have chosen to share their work is to demonstrate that our outdoors heritage still runs strong in our youth of today. Offering the opportunity for our children to gain the experiences the outdoors can provide, as it did for our generation and every generation before us, is now a serious issue for some.
Matthiessen shows that Louv points out that it doesn’t take much effort:
Establishing a relationship with nature requires nothing more than access to a vacant lot or a small patch of woods. You can nourish your child’s spirit by giving him opportunities to garden, care for animals, explore tidepools, or build a fort in the woods.
This is what I have tried to provide for the young lives I have had the good fortune to touch in my life. When I was younger, it was all about camping, fishing, or working together outdoors with my parents and siblings. Then as I got older, it was about sports when it came to family gatherings, and in fact the sports event themselves became family gatherings. Recently, it has been mentoring my siblings and nephews in our outdoors heritage of hunting and fishing.
Matthiessen’s summation of Louv’s work is valuable advice for us all:
Last Child in the Woods amounts to a warning to society to take action before it’s too late. Nature-deficit disorder threatens the well-being of our entire planet. If our children and grandchildren become alienated from nature, they are unlikely to protect it. Louv points out that environmentalism is a value that springs from an early and profound childhood experience in nature. Children raised on video games, trips to the shopping mall, and vacations in Disneyland are unlikely to become defenders of the natural world. When nature itself suffers a deficit, we’ll all be in trouble.
One final point, I would just like to reiterate that it is not only about the youth of today, but about us all. I can attest to the fact that, when I don’t personally get a chance to get outdoors during any extended period of time, it definitely has an affect on my emotional state and therefore affects production in other facets of my life. While the technological world we live in today is changing the way our youth experience life, there is a warning for the older generations as well to remember to take time to renew your outdoors heritage and share those experiences with our youth.
Check out some of the ways organizations are working to change the Nature-Deficit Disorder: