If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nature deficit disorder in children

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going on a backpacking trip with a friend and two of his boys. It was the first time the boys had ever been out in the woods, even just to camp, much less backpack, and they had a great time. The older of the two was a natural and was very disappointed to leave. So many kids now are simply into TV and video games, I can't tell you how good that made me feel.

Our pack trip took us to the Indian Heaven Wilderness in Washington State where we spent nearly three whole days. I had never been packing in this area before and discovered one of the most beautiful places on earth, right in my own backyard. The whole area was dotted with small lakes right next to giant meadows. There were several rock spires; one of which we climbed and peeked over the top into the meadow below; and surprising little wildlife. Based on the huge amount of steaming, bright blue, berry laden, bear scat we saw my assumption is the other wildlife were hiding out until the huckleberries disappear along with the bear. Never actually saw a bear, just the tell-tale signs they were not far away.

I believe each of us is programmed to love nature and the lives we live among the hustle bustle of the freeways and shopping malls disrupts that programming, or even turns it off. Time spent with nature though has a way of reprogramming us again if we let it. I also believe if we introduce kids at a young age to the wonders of nature, let them experience it close up, perhaps even get a little grimy, pick up toads and throw some rocks they will be less inclined to take nature for granted later and thoughtlessly destroy it. Having grown up myself in the era of John Denver, and others who sang of the earth, I learned a deep respect for walking in nature with a light footstep. On this trip we left no scar on the ground that would give away our presence except the small bit of dirt we took away on our boots.

I just discovered a new book titled "Last Child in the Woods, Nature Deficit in Children" which some are likening to "Silent Spring". Silent Spring is the book most credit with being the impetus behind the ecological movement of the 70's. The light of that movement has never truly died, even though the candle has definitely dimmed. I have not yet had an opportunity to read this book but it is high on my "read list" now; currently about twenty books long; and when I do I will post my comments and feelings about it. If you want to help in this effort, please send "Powell's Books" gift cards to... Just kidding, but if you do want to help, and you have kids, and have not taken them into the backwoods, even for a day hike, please do so now. Nature shows as much love to us, as we show to her. It is best to learn that love at an early age.


Spread the word! September 22 is "World Car Free Day". "WORLD CAR-FREE DAY" started in the 70's and 80's in different forms but is now a regular planned event, and each year just gets bigger. "Car-Free Day 2007" may end up being the biggest yet. Even the government of China is planning official events in more than 100 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. They even plan to close some of their roads to private cars.

Our cities, towns and streets don't have to be dominated by cars. It was not long ago they weren't. We can convert our cities and streets into avenues for people-powered transportation once again, it just takes enough voices to make change. Cities can easily be traversed by foot, bike or,for longer distances, bus, light rail, subway or train.

Let's all make "Car Free" day a special event.

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