Richard Louv’s national bestseller, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, has been out awhile but was more recently updated. If you haven’t yet read this wonderful work, make it a top summer priority. In fact, grab a drink and find a comfy chair outside, bring a notebook and get to reading!
Much of Last Child in the Woods focuses on the newer term, “Nature Deficit Disorder” (NDD), a growing concern that kids are not getting enough outdoors time and are suffering greatly from it. They are having psychological as well as physical problems, are not as social, and are sometimes in general, unhappy. This concept can be applied to adults as well and the solutions will help all people.
Louv explains how there is a multi-prong attack on nature play including:
- lawsuits when a kid gets hurt (what kid doesn’t break or bruise something?)
- strict rules on building treehouses or “unsightly” forts (because manicured lawns are so beautiful)
- fear of the “boogeyman” (nature can be dangerous at times, but so can nearly any other activity)
- lack of schools teaching kids about nature (most kids say we should save the rainforest but can hardly name a living creature in their own county or state)
- and a lot more
But, the overall point of Louv’s work is not to belittle parents, teachers, politicians, students, etc. but to inspire and provoke them to make drastic changes. Some of these changes seem radical, impossible, even ludicrous. But the only thing more crazy would be to do nothing and continue with business as usual.
“Here is a plan for an alternative future: the institutions that care for children – churches, synagogues, Scouting organizations, recreation programs, businesses, conservation and art groups – should form partnerships to build a new arm of public education. Every school district in America should be associated with one or more wildlife-and-childhood preserves in its region. Creating and nurturing such places would be far less expensive than building more brick-and-mortar science labs (though we need more of those, as well) and more needed than the purchase of the newest generation of soon-to-be-obsolete computers. These preserves could also be come the focus of higher education’s recommitment to natural history. And they should produce added impetus for a nationwide review of liability laws.”
Schools are at the forefront. While parents are responsible for guiding and molding their kids, schools often reach kids more drastically. This is even more evident for kids who may not have the best family life. Yet many schools are failing kids. Science (and music and arts as well) are often deemphasized in order to cram in standardized tests and other programs to basically make the schools look better.
Education isn’t the only way to eliminate NDD. New ideas are forming to develop, construct, rebuild entire communities, even cities into a zoopolis. While it may seem like a Utopian fantasy, in reality a zoopolis is possible. New construction of cookie-cutter housing could be replaced by intelligent arrangement of houses, parks, natural areas, walkways, etc. that encourage outdoor play, walking, biking, and provide a safe place for people of all ages.
The benefits from a zoopolis are numerous, and explained well in the book. Drastic changes may require a lot of hard work, but as the cliche goes, “many hands make for light work.” A movement is in order, and Last Child in the Woods is the guidebook for that movement. Think of it as a Field Guide to Erasing Nature Deficit Disorder.
With over 300 pages packed with insight, this is no quick read and our hardest review yet, not because it is difficult to read or uninteresting (not in the slightest!) Instead, Last Child in the Woods is so thought-provoking it required many breaks to contemplate the ideas.
In the updated and expanded version of Last Child in the Woods there is a Field Guide that has 100 actions we can take. Plus there are 35 discussion points, new and updated research, and a progress report from Richard Louv, who was the recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal.
#33 on the list of actions: Go Birding – Young people can go birding nearly anywhere and starting young is the way to turn them into future conservationists.
Visit www.lastchildinthewoods.com for more information!!
Rating: 11 of 10 feathers – yes, it is that good!!