Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on February 21, 2008
I try not to be paranoid about all the bugs, diseases, and mental traumas that await our children, but as a father of two, there’s one I can’t ignore: Nature Deficit Disorder. The term, coined by Richard Louv in his new book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, is intriguing in its veiled disgust for a world that increasingly encourages children to stay inside where it is safe, engage in virtual worlds, and experience nature as an academic exercise.
In a recent interview with Salon.com, Louv defines the disease as “the cumulative effect of withdrawing nature from children’s experiences,” in favor of organized sports, video games and 100s of television channels. But the problem isn’t just in children; it is a societal problem that has roots in man’s rather recent domination of nature. Simply put, humans are experiencing increased stress from a lack of being rooted in the natural world.
Ultimately children are paying the price. Louv found that children who spend more time playing in nature – building forts, hunting fish and frogs, and running in packs – show more ability at intellectual exercises than children that spend most of their time indoors and/or participating in organized sports. This second group of kids is also more likely to have other fad disorders such as ADD and ADHD. Louv’s research, although not necessarily scientific, will strike a chord with those of us who walked the woods as children and then had to re-discover nature as adults.
Who’s to blame? The causes are complex and can’t be pinpointed to any one specific problem; however as Louv points out, there are trends that run parallel. The rise of sensationalist journalism making all of us feel less safe, the increasingly litigious nature of our society, the domination of suburban parks, the culture of organized sports, the drive to “enrich” our children so that they can be the brightest in their class, and the growth of technology and video games all parallel the removal of nature from our lives. Since the start of the baby boom, parents have increasingly sterilized the world for their children.
The symptoms make sense and the disease certainly exists. Some think the cure may involve a huge shift in societal views about safety and security. Or maybe it involves simply letting our kids dig in the mud, build forts in the yard, and play in the woods with their friends.