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Comments

Ann Jarnet

Linda, I was hoping you would tell us a bit more about this book. How we are treating our children is one the issues which preoccupies me most. A friend who greens school grounds tells me that even when she puts together a plan to create better outdoor conditions for school children, the school board and parents are her worst obstacles. Pavement seems to be less scary than trees (eventually great shade providers to protect children from harmful sunrays); cement and wire fences seem to be better than creating a garden of edible things, a place to attract butterflies and birds. God forbid we should think of adding a small shallow pond to attract frogs! The children will surely drown!

I worry about limiting our concerns to the things you listed. If parents were so afraid "for" their children, they would push for immediate and total banning of pesticides in not only school yards but in all public and private places. In this instance, maybe we'll have to wait for veterenarians to talk openly about higher incidences of mouth, tongue, throat cancers among household pets (dogs and cats) -- cancers caused by pesticides. After all, wasn't the humane society created before the children's aid society?? Could vets lead the way on this one?

Perhaps parents are focusing on the immediate and short term, realizing the longer-term problems are too big for them to tackle. Environmental learning/healing is great for children, but in my opinion, the adults need that a lot more.... for themselves, and then for the children they are raising. Teachers are other adults who need to feel more comfortable with the notion of nature -- they need support from school boards and principals, training and education, other resources such as MONEY to make environmental learning happen.

Can't wait for the book to come out.

Ann

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman

Thanks for your comments, Ann. I'm writing a more detailed review of the book now, and it will be posted at http://thoughtoffering.blogs.com/ecotherapy at the beginning of May.

You're absolutely right that the problem is with terrified parents and uninformed teachers/school officials. Louv is pretty clear about that. I think the cause of much of this terror lies with the media, which beats us over the head with scary stories every night. Louv talks about the mythical "stranger danger"/missing children issue, pointing out that about 200 incidents a year happen, about the same as before the whole frenzy began. But whole generations of kids have been taught never to talk to anyone they don't know (how can you build community with that attitude?) and many kids aren't allowed to go anywhere without adult supervision, even to bike to school or play in the woods with friends. Sad, really. And very unhealthy, as Louv points out.

And whether it's with animals or people, the impetus for change will surely come from the health community. At least that's what Louv is hoping for. The demonstrable, provable health benefits of nature connection to children are really impressive, and may force some change. Or at least we can hope so!

Andrew

Dear Linda,

I just heard the NPR story on this book this morning and it struck a chord. I am 40 years old and was raised in the country (back when Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod were still rural; unfortunately, this is not the case today.) We had four acres of land on a pond; a little "compound" if you will. In addition I was fortunate to spend my last two years of high school in Vermont. I live in an inner suburb of Boston now, but when we moved to our present house thirteen years ago I was insistent that we find a place near open space, which we managed to do. We are fortunate enough to be between the Mystic River and the Middlesex Fells Reservation, though I work in urban Cambridge and don't have the time of nature that I would like. Due to family vicissitudes, I am exiled from my childhood home, but still escape the city from time to time to other parts of the New England coastlands.

To me, the idea of children being so alienated from nature is almost unimaginable. It will cause severe damage to the future of our society. Everyone has forgotten Chief Seattle, "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth." I hope that Louv's book will help today's parents, who may not be very attuned to the natural world themselves, wake up to this grave danger.They will sicken and die as they go about poisoning the earth. I joined the Catholic Church as an adult and while I am very committed to my faith, I recognize that the Church has to do a MUCH better job of getting the environmental message out. I once heard a very wise priest say that man's alienation from nature was one of the four consequences of original sin. Christians look to Christ to heal those separations but the church tends to deemphasize the man/nature dimension. Nature is part of the creation and it would be erroneous to deify it, but the farther we are separated from nature the farther we are separated from God. Children, or adults, who are cut off fom a healthy relationship with the natural world are being deprived of their full human dignity.

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman

Thanks, Andrew. You are so right that people "who are cut off from a healthy relationship with the natural world are being deprived of their full human dignity."

A number of people have told me about the NPR story on this book. I wish I had heard it! I think this is a REALLY important book...

Breadbreaker

I heard this author on WBUR's "On Point". What struck me is that our young kids are being cut off from nature while our young adults are getting more into dangerous and extreme types of outdoor activity. I think if we don't teach intimacy and respect for the outdoors, kids find they don't know what they're getting into when they finally do venture outside. A sobering book that I'm hoping to read.

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman

This is a really good point, Breadbreaker. I don't think anyone else has made the connection between the nature deprivation of children and then the "extreme" sports - both indoor and outdoor -- of older kids. I also attribute the rise of "extreme" everything to the rising psychic numbing caused by TV and by blocking out the reality of our precarious situation on the planet right now.

Jeffrey Hunter

Linda:

Its 2 AM in Chattanooga, and here I sit surfing the web looking for content regarding this new book. I requested a review copy of "Last Child in the Woods?" the other day, and intend to review the book for American Hiker, the magazine of American Hiking Society, my employer.

As a person who has done extensive environmental education - in a classroom setting - this book has called into question much of my work during the 90s. It's also raised some really good points about my parenting. Recently I purchased the book"How to Shit in the Woods" for my 15 year old daughter, and we're doing our first overnight on the Appalachian Trail this weekend. I'll be chronicling this experience in my BLOG, and encouraging my daughter to write about the experience. Funny thing.... although I've walked the entire Appalachian Trail, I have not taken out my daughter a single time for an overnight. In fact, I think my hike and being away from home for 5.5 months actually traumatized my daughter at age 10 - and created a negative association for her regarding the Appalachian Trail and hiking. The idea that I would have to buy my child a book to teach her to "shit in the woods" is alternately funny and sad.
As a child, I roamed far and wide - often miles from home, and my Mother rarely knew where I was other than "in the woods".
I look forward to reading this book - and doing a better job as a parent AND as a professional involved in the Outdoor Recreation field. It'll be interesting to see how this book informs me.

Anyway, thanks for allowing me to share.

Jeffrey Hunter
Southeast Trail Programs Director
American Hiking Society
Chattanooga, TN

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman

Thanks, Jeffrey, for sharing your experiences of hiking, environmental education and parenting. I'm glad you're doing a blog so others can hear about what you're learning. It's such a challenge today for those who care about being outdoors to pass this love of nature along to our children.

Bucky Edgett

I too heard NPR and went surfing! It will sound like bragging, but I've been saying for several decades that "nature deprivation" (although I didn't know the phrase) is bad for growing brains. This since reading Jerry Mander's 1977 book "Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television." Growing brains need stimulation to encourage complex neural structures. Human artifacts and humanly created environments are just not complicated enough to provide the finely detailed, multisensory experience necessary for proper development.

AndI don't care WHAT they say about Flynn's Effect, it cannot be due strictly to TV abd video games!

Not having read Mr. Louv's book, I cannot say whether he speaks to the developmental point. But I've been harping on it for twenty years to all of our friends who are parents. We'll see what the future will bring, eh?

Thanks for another chance to vent!

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman

I know how frustrating it can be when one sees an obvious truth that others don't yet see. I'm hoping, Bucky, that thanks to Louv's book and the development of ecopsychology as a field and a profession, more people may start to catch on to what you've been understanding for twenty years.

jennifer

Hi Linda,

A friend just told me of this book, and I am anxious to read it. However, I want to say that juxtaposed against the norms of society, I have two Nature Aware kids. They have been exposed to nature since babies (we livein the burbs), and have been taking classes every now and again from Wilderness Awareness School, www.wildernessawareness.org. This school has a home study program that anyone can do with their children called Kamana. At ages 6 and 9, my children can identify the tracks of most mammals, or can at least identify the order (mustilid, canid, etc). They now 10 wild edibles outside their door, and have no problems harvesting it when the need or desire arises. They know that the birds are the eyes of the forest, and can tell you what is happening in our neighborhood by listening to the birds. They know 10 native trees with ease, and how to identify poison oak. They now that the cree of the red tailed hawk is usually played in movies to represent the eagle, but they know from hours spent with wild eagles, that eagles chirp. They know when the great blue heron flies over our house, he or she is looking to poach some easy koi out of local ponds. Although they don't get as much unstructured play in the woods as I did as a child, they know tonnes more than I do even now!

So, since I haven't read the book, I don't know what the author recommends as solutions, but for us reading Tom Brown Jr. and doing Kamana helps.

Thanks,
Jennifer

jennifer

Hi Linda,

A friend just told me of this book, and I am anxious to read it. However, I want to say that juxtaposed against the norms of society, I have two Nature Aware kids. They have been exposed to nature since babies (we livein the burbs), and have been taking classes every now and again from Wilderness Awareness School, www.wildernessawareness.org. This school has a home study program that anyone can do with their children called Kamana. At ages 6 and 9, my children can identify the tracks of most mammals, or can at least identify the order (mustilid, canid, etc). They now 10 wild edibles outside their door, and have no problems harvesting it when the need or desire arises. They know that the birds are the eyes of the forest, and can tell you what is happening in our neighborhood by listening to the birds. They know 10 native trees with ease, and how to identify poison oak. They now that the cree of the red tailed hawk is usually played in movies to represent the eagle, but they know from hours spent with wild eagles, that eagles chirp. They know when the great blue heron flies over our house, he or she is looking to poach some easy koi out of local ponds. Although they don't get as much unstructured play in the woods as I did as a child, they know tonnes more than I do even now!

So, since I haven't read the book, I don't know what the author recommends as solutions, but for us reading Tom Brown Jr. and doing Kamana helps.

Thanks,
Jennifer

Linda Buzzell-Saltzman

Thanks, Jennifer, for telling us about the terrific things you're doing with your children and for passing along these resources for other parents to try.

Mike Vandeman

Last Child in the Woods --
Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
by Richard Louv
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
November 16, 2006

In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building "forts", farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what's to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though ("conveniently") never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!", at http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3.

It should also be obvious (but apparently isn't) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how learn to treat it. Remember, children don't learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building "forts", mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: "Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back." Then he titles his next chapter "Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?" Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are "nature-lovers" and are "just hikers on wheels". But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It's not!

On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one's health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one's experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the "civilized" world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I've been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can't remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

It's clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.

References:

Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier -- An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J., http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande, especially http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/ecocity3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/india3, http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/sc8, and http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/goodall.

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

"The Wildlands Project", Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Chloe

Ladies and Gentleman,

I saw Louv at the National Cathedral this week and was amazed how many people came to the event. I purchased the book and had it signed by the author! I got 4 copies and will give it to family members as a way to spread the word around. I am a conservation scientist and have been fortunate enough to explore nature and appreciate all elements given. I could not live my life any other way.

Jeffrey Hunter and I have something in common. I don't include my children during my field work, but after reading and going to the event last week, I will definitely change my attitude. We are creating a generation of children less immune to diseases, prone to depression and other health problems.

We all Man needs to learn to live with nature and learn as we go, to respect it. We have as a Nation, destroyed more habitats and continue to do so at a alarming rate. I believe children learn by observing our behavior, and if we are to teach them about nature's virtue and beauty, we are to preserve and conserve more. So far, this administration wants to explore oil in ANWAR, opens the national parks to exploitation of wood, etc.

If we are to teach our children to love nature, we need to change our attitudes immediately and demand our government-local ,state and federal level, for more investment in alternative energy and more conservation.

child learning

Man has a natural thirst for knowledge, humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife. Man needs to learn to live with nature and learn as we go, to respect it. even during the early stages of his development, as shown by a child’s inquisitiveness and curiosity.

Jose

I haven't yet read the book , but foresure is a very interesting book. Is true alot of children are prohibited to play outisde and get intact with nature , every child should be introduce to nature and other sites. Is easy for children to know their surrounding , parent should not close doors to their kids , let them explore nature and the outside world.

Jose

I also dont have children , but i care for them too. As parents kids should always be in a positive enviroment where they could be themselves. Every child should be expose to positive things and keep them aways from technology. Many children dont develop their abilities because they stuck in a techno-world where is hard for them to express what are their abilities and capacities.Kids should always be in enviroment where they could learn about anything in their level.

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