Richard Louv, author of Last Child in The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, was in town last night. Instead of enjoying the -20 wind chills, I watched him on cable access (lord bless cable access, and the holiday season fireside streaming video that warms me so).
I wouldn't have wasted an hour watching him had I known I could go to Orion Magazine's website and read his presentation--it followed his short essay Leave No Child Inside. You could tell he'd done this a billion times before, commenting on how after 2 years the book hasn't gone away; and after reading up on the internet, he seems eager to move on to other projects yet thankful for what he started.
What I like about Louv is he is HOPEFUL, positive, we can do things better and make more money at it, says that part of our problem is we are paralyzed with doomsday talk, that to create change there must be hope. I read this in another essay on Orion that was concerned with capitalism's ability to squash hope and our spiritual connection to each other and landscapes.
Louv also hates the word "sustainable," and now so do I (I had an inkling I did)--for him, it means "stasis and stagnation." Yup. Why try to hold on to what's left when you can actually create more of it instead? Fun things I learned:
--Only 6% of kids 9-13 play outside on their own during a typical week
--Ansel Adams was kicked out of school as a kid for hyperactivity, which was fixed by his desperate parents taking him on repeated nature trips. Didn't he do something with nature in his photagraphy? (sarcasm)
--Playing outside is statistically proven to increase self esteem, confidence, social skills, creativity, lowers teenage suicide risk and symptoms of ADD, et cetera. DUH.
--Eco phobia is taught at a young age. Basically, we fear nature like we fear strangers.
--Which is why kids don't play outside--parents don't let them. In truth, child abductions and such are holding steady or dropping nationally. Virtual house arrest he calls it. News media is largely to blame, consistently covering the same story over and over to improve ratings and play on fears that something IS up, when it isn't.
--Lincoln, NE is pretty progressive when it comes to getting families outside repeatedly with their Lincoln Safari program (5,000 families projected this year).
--National Park attendance is down 25%.
--There's a 40% reduction in fieldtrips and recess nationally. Some schools post "no running" signs on the playground. That'll help curb childhood obesity.
--Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is about reclaiming our humanity, too, not just environment. I.e. we suffer emotional and spiritual lack for not playing outside.
And by the way, this isn't all about or for kids. It applies to adults. So go outside and build a fort.
Where did you play as a child? My dad built us a "tree house" once in Oklahoma (we were always at war with the neighbor's kids). But I think my spiritual, romantic, deep space must have been from my first impressions of Minnesota when we moved from Oklahoma--a dark, musty stand of pines and spruce near where we first lived. The ground was soft and squishy, the sunlight hazy, that darkness and stillness the same quiet inward solitude of fear and hope I felt after moving north--the same solitude I carry with me today as a definition of who I am and how I recharge, or find my way again.