Answering the Call of Nature
(^^ Snicker!)

Q: If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

A: Yes. **UNLESS the aforementioned forest is encased in a vacuum.** (<-- Aaaannnd she sinks the hook shot at the buzzer!)

This time-wasting quantum-ly theoretical question has enraged philosophers and innocent PHIL101 students alike for decades.

But today, I’m asking the hard question lurking underneath this rhetorical tree: WHY IS NO ONE IN THE WOODS? *dramatically removes eyeglasses like a bit actor juicing a stage prop*

What gives? Richard Louv unravels this complicated nugget in his (new to me) book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In fact, Louv makes the case that human children now rank among the most endangered species in the natural environment.

For reasons ranging from overstuffed schedules to overblown safety fears to liability concerns to city and neighborhood land planning – our kids have an ever-dwindling connection to nature. Parents are taking fewer and shorter vacations staycations, and kids are increasingly involved in organized sports, leaving little time for free ranging. Besides time and access though, there is also the small matter of interest.

For the love of my three wired generation kids and iEVERYTHING, do not get me started on technology. (Grrrr!) Louv conducted thousands of interviews with kids while researching his book, and a fourth grade boy in San Diego summed it up best when he said: “I like to play indoors better, ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” Naked truths from the mouths of tweens…

This is quite the pendulum swing from our generation. We were generally expected to stay outside during daylight hours, free to bike, skate, and roam the neighborhood in packs, drinking at will from garden hoses while completely unprotected by sunscreen or tracking devices.*

But our kids are being de-natured right under our well-tanned noses. And this shortage of unstructured play outdoors has some toxic consequences for children including obesity, depression, and attention disorders. In fact, Louv hypothesizes that ADHD “may be a set of symptoms aggravated by a lack of exposure to nature.” And getting down to earth, it turns out, has only positive side effects.**

So – INSTEAD of meds - what if our kid’s pediatrician prescribed taking two walks and calling him in the morning? Louv argues for “Nature as antidote. Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life” await. Beyond the door.


* Read this for proof.

** Unless you try the sun stare for too long, or make a bike ramp with whatever’s lying around – just to see what happens. (<3 Brian Regan!)

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