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Forest People Versus the Cyborg Babies

by janderson on April 11, 2012

Several years ago, in my past life, I promoted a great book by Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods. Louv is one of the world’s great advocates for getting kids back to nature, teaching them about the natural world and strengthening the relationship that people must necessarily have to the world outside of technology.

Louv’s book charged with some convincing evidence, that the disconnect between kids and nature and their overexposure to technology could be playing a hand in a host of learning and emotional deficits that seem to have become prevalent over the last couple of decades. Scientific evidence continues to emerge and mount that support Louv’s claims. He has succinctly outlined a few of those findings in a recent blog post.

It bears noting that, one of the articles, from the Sunday Times, referenced in his blog, reflects a post I wrote several months ago about GPS affecting our spatial and navigation abilities. Apparently, this is a question others are beginning to look into.

Beyond these more pressing questions about Nature Deficit Disorder (Louv’s term) leading to ADD, or anxiety issues in our children, there are other issues of concern about generations becoming disconnected from the natural world.

When I grew up as a country kid, in Iowa, the state of nature was one of the orienting factors of life. Learning the names of trees and plants, the habits of animals, the cycles of life throughout the year, were an integral part to functioning, or, at least, needed skills for outdoorsman-ship. The simple knowledge of what poison ivy looked like could save a person a lot of anguish. Knowing how to hunt for mushrooms, what a muskrat den looked like, how to find snakes and frogs, were skills that created some of my fondest memories. Will modern children fondly remember disposable and meaningless things like the time they got the new smart phone, or when they beat the really hard level in some video game?

I try very hard to take my own son to parks and hiking several times a week. I’ve noticed that, on weeks when we are very busy, or the weather isn’t cooperating, and he is indoors too much, there is a distinct change in him. He tends to become more irascible and unsettled. He sleeps less and less peacefully. The difference isn’t just the exercise. I’ve tried to make up for it by playing hide and seek in the house, or going to someplace indoors where he can run around. It is just empirical observation, nothing scientific, but the effect of fresh air and trees is there. Perhaps it is even just the need for the lulling peace of natural quiet, away from television and traffic and his Innotab games. Put simply, when he is in nature more, he is a happier kid.

It makes sense to me then, that children who have little chance to commune with nature, and whose lives revolve around constant technology, in the confines of towns and cities, may become somewhat stressed, or depressed.

Down the road, the simple disconnect, the lack of understanding and knowledge of how the earth and its ecosystems work puts future generations at a dire deficit to adequately protect and nurture it. It would likely become difficult to even care about something they have had no exposure to.

So, hats off to Louv, and those like him working to keep the relationship alive. It is important to remember, whether we live within steel and stone, spend our lives walking on asphalt, dwell with our heads buried in LED screens, we are still, in the simplest terms, animals. We must have some need to remain connected to the world that created us.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dad August 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm

This touched me more than I can explain. I have often wondered if any of those things were important to you. Thank you. Mother Nature can teach inner peace far more than any other source.


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