“Have you ever heard of Richard Louv?” My friend’s eyes were bright with possibility. I admitted that I had not, but then again back in 2005 I was also knee-deep in preschooler chaos. That’s when he told me about Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods and the author’s efforts to solve the nature-deficit disorder so many children have begun to exhibit. That was two years before the first iPhone hit the market. According to Martin Nielson, CEO of E-Waste Systems, less than 20% of electronic gadgets get recycled in the US every year. That’s up to 300 million gadgets tossed in landfills. While e-waste only represents 2% of the overall trash in landfills annually, it equalls 70% of all toxic waste. Thirty million computers alone were tossed last year.
In light of those stats, the need to save the environment and to get outdoors has grown since Louv first penned that book.
As a result, Richard Louv has written another one, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. This time he addresses adult nature deficit disorder without forgetting the impact our actions have on children. He takes an enjoyment approach, not an admonishing one. He speaks little about recycling per see and views conservation as a troublesome term. He speaks more about nature creation and about allowing the Earth to do what it does best – live.
Louv has a delightful way of informing without lecturing, of inspiring without scaring people into action. At times I teared up while reading his latest book, simply for the passion and direction he shows.
“…nature simultaneously calms and focuses the mind, and at the same time offers a state that transcends relaxation, allowing the mind to detect patters that it would otherwise miss (page 28).”
In other words, nature is the stage upon which we return to self on a cellular level. It demands nothing of us. It simply is. As he writes, humans were meant to live in a natural environment and did so for five million years before divorcing ourselves virtually completely from the outside.
We choke the lives out of ourselves to somehow prove we are better than animals, yet we treat ourselves much worse than animals do. Trees take time to grow, yet we somehow demand that our children “just grow up!” Being a little adult is somehow a badge of honor, instead of simply being a kid who makes mistakes, gets messy and simply is. We could learn from nature by viewing it as teacher and guide in a world speeding out of control.
At a recent Disney Kids and Nature Celebration held April 13-14, 2012, at Walt Disney World Resort, Richard Louv, now chairman and co-founder, Children & Nature Network, is quoted as saying:
“People who identify themselves as conservationists…environmentalists had some transcendent experience with nature when they were kids. What happens if that virtually fades away? Who will be the future stewards of the earth? The true stewards? Conservation will always exist but if we’re not careful, conservationists will carry nature in their briefcases not in their hearts and that’s a very different relationship, and I don’t believe it’s sustainable.”
The Nature Principle focuses on the heart connection between humans and nature. We need to have a love of the land, parks, open spaces and greenery to establish, then preserve, a relationship with the outdoors. TurfMutt.com, a web portal that offers up green tips and fun outdoor activities for kids, has been designed, in conjunction with Discovery Education, to encourage children grades K-5 to learn about plant science in their backyard and in public green spaces. If those spaces dwindle, they won’t learn about them through experience, but through Internet apps that explain what has since been extinct due to our carelessness and speed.
What Earth Day activities do you have planned? A few ideas:
- have a picnic with our family,
- seek out a new park in your area,
- fly a kite,
- recycle those batteries rolling around in your junk drawer
- volunteer to pick up trash. Ask your community center how you might help.
In truth, every day is Earth Day because it is where we live. What will you do to create nature, not only in principle, but in real life too?