Labor of Louv

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For me to even assume that a post of mine will inspire readers, I feel it is only right to first expose one of the main inspirations for this entire blog endeavor: Richard Louv.

Mr. Louv is the chairman of the Children & Nature Network, an organization created to provoke more of a connection between our children and the outdoors.  I have felt many of the sentiments of the program, but not until discovering the C&NN have I been able to fully understand what is wrong with our current educational approaches.

Louv’s most popular work, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, has provoked a widespread movement – aside from co-founding the C&NN – that includes the creation of the Leave No Child Inside initiative and the Nature Child Reunion.  Both have been created in the wake of Louv’s book.

Last Child in the Woods

Louv Book Cover

In my affection and excitement, I cannot help but expose the tip of the iceberg for you.

“As far as physical fitness goes, today’s kids are the sorriest generation in the history of the United States.  Their parents may be out jogging, but the kids just aren’t outside.”

Louv is describing what he calls the “third frontier” in our societal progression. The first being actual colonization, the second involving farm culture and the pastoral, the third frontier is defined by five distinct attributes:

  • a severance of the public and private mind from our food’s origins
  • a disappearing line between machines, humans and other animals
  • an increased intellectual understanding of our relationship with other animals
  • the invasion of our cities by wild animals (even as urban/suburban developers replace wilderness with synthetic nature)
  • the rise of a new kind of suburban form

Severance From Food’s Origins

I believe this attribute to be true and very telling of our culture.  However, with the rise of awareness and progress in the health and wellness sector, I can see this disconnect on a downward slope.  Farmer’s markets and health food stores are becoming more popular, as is the frequency of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and menu items.  With all of these moving in the right direction, I think we could still do a much better job of personally producing more than we consume; there’s no mistaking the viability of “organic” claims that way.  I love being able to go directly from a garden to the kitchen for meal preparation — that’s really making it from scratch.

Blurry Divisions Between Machines and Humans

“Even the definition of life itself is up for grabs.”

Think of Dolly the clone, stem-cell research, the pro-life/pro-choice stances, and how the field of genetics is taking off in countless directions.  I understand that many of our children (including my own) are not quite ready to discuss or grasp the social intensity surrounding some of these issues.  But our children’s perception of all of them depends on how we approach their education of such difficult topics. I have to admit: I’m having a hard time keeping up… I mean, Pluto isn’t even a planet anymore.

An Ever-Expanding Knowledge of Animals

In many ways, this is one of our greatest hopes in getting kids outside… even if it is just a trip to the zoo.  The only animals that live inside are the ones you get to know quite well, and the curiosity wears off eventually.  Channels like Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel have pure intentions and offer wonderfully honest programming.  But, you have to be watching television… inside… most likely eating on the couch… to take in the messages.  Let’s get our kids to take a book about animals outside.

Not-So Wild Life

When I drive through the suburbia we live in, it’s pretty easy to imagine its development: bulldozing the entire landscape to build the houses; finding empty places to plan and manufacture a landscape for the parks; filling in the rest with brand new trees that still need braces to survive.  To be sure, having trees is better than the alternative, but I can’t help but wonder what my street looked like before it was “developed.”

Richard Louv had the patience to wrap his mind around all these factors and verbalize it so we could see it all in one place.  In the next post of this series, we’ll go into his thoughts on biophilia and how the effects of what he calls Nature-deficit disorder are devastating, but surely reversible.

How do you encourage your children’s relationship with nature?  Are you inspired by what Mr. Louv has to say?  What other attributes of our daily lives can you see as factors in how little children are outside?

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Comments

  1. Good job!

  2. Sheila Welch says:

    This is fantastic Joan!! Kudos!! I look forward to visiting often. :)

  3. Great post Joan! I had no idea his book explored such a diversity of issues. Looks awesome, I don’t know if I can wait until June.

    One of my kids favorite outdoor activities is to go on a Color Hunt nature walk… I color several circles on some paper, each circle a different color, and we go on a walk outside to find as many things as we can of each color on our chart. It’s a fun way to introduce discovering things in nature and comparing colors, textures, noticing details, so on…

    • @ Sarah: Man, you guys are inspiring as an outdoor family… your Landry could throw a football like a pro the last time I saw him. That doesn’t happen if you’re stuck indoors! Thanks for saying hi & sharing this wonderful idea.

  4. much to think about. My friend has recently read this book, and I am looking forward to reading it myself.

    The kids getting outside is more my issue. We aren’t in a place where I can ‘send’ them and they can explore it themselves. Mostly because of safety issues. And I’m not a particularly safety-conscious mom.

    As far as taking them, this is much more MY problem… I grew up in the tropical jungle, and I live in Alaska. Does any more need to be said? :) Here is what we do:

    **Fresh snow days are mandatory walks / sledding (home schooling makes this possible). **We have nature walks on Fridays with a friend where we sometimes let them loose and sometimes ‘organize’ some sort of nature treasure hunt (the colors, as mentioned above, tree or bird types). **My husband built them a tree house in our small back yard… right up in the branches. **And any exercise is done outdoors as much as possible. Summer hiking and berry picking, Winter walks, skiing and sledding.

    • @Renee: That’s a great idea to exercise outside; I am going to make it a point to do that… and I bet my body will be happier for it.

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