The Nature Principle is Richard Louv’s “companion” to Last Child in the Woods and covers some parallel topics as well as delves into more reasons to connect or reconnect with nature. The Nature Principle could be considered a book to promote ending nature-deficit-disorder in adults.
Louv introduces and expands on many catch phrases or buzzwords in relation to connecting with nature; at times these become a bit overwhelming or even a bit confusing. Louv expands on nature-deficit-disorder and covers other new or newer concepts: Vitamin N (for nature), solastalgia, plant blindness (what it sounds like), and citizen naturalists (instead of citizen scientists).
Solastalgia is what Professor Glenn Albrecht says is “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault.” This could be taken to mean your local natural areas that go underfunded or worse, are developed, but also can recognize larger ecosystems (or the Earth) as a whole.
Vitamin N is actually covered in an entire book (2016, which I will be reviewing) and is a cheeky but real play on nature being a prescription for improving the health and well-being of people.
In The Nature Principle, Louv states that exposure to nature has at least two ways of enhancing learning:
- Senses improved with direct interaction with nature
- Natural environment stimulates our ability to “pay attention, think clearly, and be more creative”
Louv goes through many examples and hypotheses about ways we can incorporate nature into our lives. Some of these can be businesses that offer products and services (sometimes a bit self-serving). Other ways would be the increase of Family Nature Clubs, a directive Louv is highly involved in. These clubs involve everyday people (families) going out in nature together. This concept helps alleviate the idea of “danger in the woods” and encourages free play of kids and community gathering.
Still other approaches include career paths that involve connecting people with nature. I agree completely, but it is easier said than done. Especially for high school students, trying to find their path in college, it is difficult when there are no clear paths in front of them. Some figure out how to make a new path, but that can not always be possible, especially when the economy is struggling and the need for a more “solid” job is pressing.
Louv is an advocate for nature being a “right” that, “…if we fail to serve as careful stewards, we will destroy the reason for our right, and the right itself. And if we do not use this right, we will lose it.” He also suggests new environmentalist model should be “to conserve and create”. Louv encourages “regular” people to get involved and to start now.
“‘To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only a good shovel.'” – Aldo Leopold
Gardeners have the power and the unwritten duty to protect the diversity of earth. It is not too late and it is easy to do and it can begin right this moment! A movement moves. We can research for eternity, but action is needed not “down the road” but right this moment.
One often overlooked potential problem is that with more and more programs geared towards getting people into nature, all the clubs and programs become saturated from lack of funding. They are all competing for the same dollars and the competition of nature organizations is not really a good thing.
We need ways to “connect the connections” otherwise people will have difficulty joining and participating and some good programs will disappear not because they aren’t great but because there isn’t enough resources to be involved in everything.
This isn’t to say that grassroots, new clubs and ideas, should be discouraged, just that we need to be better connected and share resources: time, money, data, ideas, volunteers, etc.
Throughout The Nature Principle there are lots of positive approaches and new ways of thinking. Sometimes Louv dips into the traditional negative, environmentalist approach of doom, but overall his outlook is much stronger and hopeful than other books.
“And there is no practical alternative to hope.”