The news yesterday has a story about how there are fewer people hunting nowadays. And nature conservationists are actually very concerned, because there are species that need hunting to keep them from getting out of control and over-populated, like deer.
But that was not the main topic of this blog which I have planned to write for the past few days. It relates to it, because we are becoming detached from our surroundings and nature. We are growing up in a society where most people are totally separated from the outdoors.
Even many of the Seminole and Miccosukee people have moved into the cities and away from their former camps.
Last Child in the Woods; Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2006.
"In his groundbreaking work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, journalist and child advocate Richard Louv directly links the absence of nature in the lives of today's wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. This is the first book to bring together a body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions to heal a broken bond."
"Louv's case for … a drug-free 'nature' cure for many modern ills is too tantalizing to ignore."--Audubon Magazine.
One of the more telling signs of this thesis was the description of a TV commercial for an SUV driving in an area that looked like the scenic Rockies. There was a breath-taking panorama of the mountains right outside the window. And what were the kids doing? They were watching cartoons on the built-in dvd entertainment center.
When I was a kid I use to spend hours outside looking for tadpoles on the pond or climbing trees in the backyard. Now kids are glued in front of an entertainment center with things moving so fast that it makes your head explode.
Even the scouts have changed. When I was a scout, we had outdoor survival skills emphasized. We learned how to canoe and sail boats. We burned scrambled eggs on a camp stove and camped wherever we decided in the national forest. Now kids are cooked their camp meals by Mom, and don't go to any place that doesn't have a shower.
This book really sums up what I am trying to teach with the living history, reenactment, my scouting work, and work in the parks. Not only children, but also adults need to rediscover nature and find that sacred place that will solve many of their ills in modern society. I don't consider this an option, but vital to our survival!
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 we 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.
(For the rest: http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande/louv)