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Closeness to nature promotes creativity and health

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Richard Louv, author of “The Last Child in the Woods” and “The Principle of Nature”, explains how society can overcome nature deficit syndrome, i.e. the phenomenon of increasing alienation from nature.

“I’ve long argued that the connection to nature should be considered a human right,” Richard Louv told the audience gathered in the courtyard of National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Louv had been invited to tell employees about the benefits of spending time outdoors.

Louv, author of the bestsellers “The Last Child in the Woods” (2005) and “The Principle of Nature” (2011), coined the term “nature deficit syndrome”. He describes the increasing alienation of children from nature. “Nature deficit disorder is not a clinically recognized condition,” he explains, “but rather a term that recalls the lost communication with other living beings.” Still, he argues that “nature deficit syndrome has implications for health, mental well-being, and many other areas, such as [people’s] ability to feel alive.”

This syndrome is triggered by the loss of open seats, increasingly busy schedules, the promotion of group sports over the neglect of individual play and discovery, competition from electronic media and the “culture of fear”, as Louv and others call it. In the latter phenomenon, people are afraid of nature and going outdoors due to extensive media coverage of violent events. For a deeper insight into Louv’s ideas, National Geographic conducted a short interview with him.

A few years have passed since you published your book “The Last Child in the Woods” in 2005. What has happened since then?

A good deal. I have written a new book called “The Principle of Nature”. In it, I extend the idea [of nature deficit disorder] to adults. I was inspired to do this because I kept hearing the phrase from adults: “This affects us too”. There were a lot of great projects about nature at the time, but there was never anything to read or hear about it in the media – let alone in the headlines.

I did not expect that the book would find such a resonance. I’m not saying that “The Last Child in the Woods” triggered anything, but it was a useful tool and got the ball rolling. If you take a look at childrenandnature.org today [the website of the Children & Nature Network founded by Louv], you will see countless projects throughout the United States and increasingly internationally. For example, there are more and more preschools with a nature-related approach. In the U.S. and Canada, 112 regional, provincial and state campaigns are working to bring children closer to nature. Many of them have been newly created.

It doesn’t seem to matter what religion or political orientation someone belongs to: if they’re old enough, they all tell me about the tree house they had as a child. For the younger generations, however, this seems to be less and less true. This topic brings people together, because nobody wants to belong to the last generation in which it is normal for children to play outside.

This week, at an event at the Center for American Progress in Washington, you talked to US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell about the importance of getting children and adults back into nature. How did that go for you?

Sally Jewell is the former head of the American sports and outdoor retailer REI and is one of the people who took the initiative when my book “The Last Child in the Woods” was published. She grabbed a backpack from REI, filled it with copies of the book, and distributed them to lawmakers and the president at the White House. super viagra 100mg.

She is the third Minister of the Interior in a row who is wholeheartedly committed to this issue. The first Secretary of the Interior to do so was Dirk Kemthorne, a conservative Republican under President [George W.] Bush. Ken Salazar [under President Obama] and now Sally did the same, and of the three she has arguably the most experience in this field. Tuesday’s event makes it clear that this issue continues to gain in importance.

Can you give us a few concrete examples of the positive influence that contact with nature has had on a person’s life?

Juan Martinez, an employee at National Geographic, is one example. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, a neighborhood where he inevitably had to deal with gangs and got into trouble. His headmaster gave him a choice: sit down or join the eco-club. Even though the club sounded like a bunch of strivers to him, he joined it. At first he hated him. But that changed when he was given the task of planting something.

He knew that his mother had broken open the concrete floor behind her house to grow chili peppers. So he grew a jalapeño plant, which he later took home to show his mother. This plant and a subsequent trip with the eco-club to the Grand Teton National Park changed his life. He is now an environmental activist and chairman of the Natural Leaders Network, part of the Children & Nature Network. He also works for National Geographic and has twice spoken at the White House.

So nature can really change a life. Juan Martinez found not only nature, but also people through nature. He was able to build a whole new connection to his home district.

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