Richard Louv has set up a pretty broad picture for us so far. The history of how we, as Americans, proceed through our conquests and frontiers reveals not a mere trend, but rather a distinct characteristic.
Now that we’ve progressed to the third frontier, it is the essence of our nature to move on. If I’m not mistaken, in the whole of this book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Louv is asking us: in which direction, for the sake of our children, do we choose to continue?
This question is rooted in a deep concern for the current status quo.
Based on his life’s passion and writings, Louv consolidated his knowledge and developed the term nature-deficit disorder. He’s very quick to explain that it is not an official medical diagnosis, nor is it meant to front itself as such. He does, however make a strong case for the term:
“Nature-deficit disorder describes the human cost of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”
He continues; his mission is to rid ourselves of this unnecessary malady:
“By weighing the consequences of this disorder, we can also become more aware of how blessed our children can be – biologically, cognitively, and spiritually – through positive physical connection to nature.”
Through his research, Louv came across the hypothesis of Edward O. Wilson: biophilia. This term concentrates on biological shifts based on “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”
Though not all biologists are strong advocates of this theory, the field of ecopsychology has contributed data highlighting the positive response in humans after being exposed to many different aspects of nature.
For instance, one study shows “the mortality rate of heart-disease patients with pets was found to be one-third that of patients without pets.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Louv shares the statistic showing that the steepest increase in antidepressant prescriptions by demographic was a boost… in preschoolers. Yes, preschoolers.
I am not a doctor, nor an expert of anything for that matter. But, perpetual growth and change is the nature of all preschool-aged children. Mentally and physically, through circadian rhythms and coordination skill, logic and imagination, size and weight, children in this demographic are supposed to reveal all emotion and breadth of personality; how else would they know it exists?
How else would they learn to distinguish between right and wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, and tell happy from sad? To me, the diagnosis of depression in a child this young is a stretch.
Just the other day, my four-yr-old daughter became very emotional very spontaneously. Call me crazy, but I didn’t call the doctor. I took her on a long, long walk and let her act monkey-esque at a park for the afternoon. I don’t know why the sudden changes in either direction, unusually sad or immediately content, but it looked to me as if taking the little lady out into the fresh air and sunshine fixed whatever was ailing her that morning.
“You’ll likely never see a slick commercial for nature therapy, as you do for the latest antidepressant pharmaceuticals. But parents, educators, and health workers need to know what a useful antidote to emotional and physical stress nature can be. Especially now.”
Have you personally witnessed your child(ren) change demeanor after a change in their indoor/outdoor status?What do you think of Louv’s assessment regarding the current state of our kids’ culture?