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Nature-Deficit Disorder

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Richard Louv makes an interesting point in his new book, Last Child in the Woods, about the physical, psychological, and spiritual problems that stem from the lack of regular contact with nature, particularly for children. If you’ve ever sat under the stars around a roaring campfire, it’s easy to understand the psychological benefits of spending time in a natural setting.

But in this Salon interview, Louv talks a little about the causes of what he calls “nature-deficit disorder.”

Louv argues that sensationalist media coverage and paranoid parents have literally “scared children straight out of the woods and fields,” while promoting a litigious culture of fear that favors “safe” regimented sports over imaginative play.

Ok. Fine. That’s a reasonable argument. But if you want to talk about sensationalist media and scaring parents, why subtitle your book, “Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder”? Isn’t that a little sensationalistic? Is the problem so bad that we really need to “Save the Children”? And isn’t comparing this to attention deficit disorder playing on parents’ fears of that disorder?

According to Louv:

It’s not good for human beings to live with fear all the time. In this society we are increasingly living in fear, whether it’s of terrorism or “stranger danger” — and statistically, most of that fear is not warranted. Child abductions by strangers are, in fact, rare, and criminologists and others report that the number of them may have decreased in recent years.

Now parents can stop worrying about stranger danger and obsess about how their irrational fears are screwing up their kids psychologically.

From www.ablogistan.com:

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    “Take your kids camping” is not as catchy as Nature Deficit Disorder. I agree though, that kids and adults can benefit from being outside away from all eelctronic stimualtion and distraction for a while. After the cacaphony of urban life, gettingto a place that is quiet is absolute bliss.

    To me, it’s not really camping unless you have to walk at least 5 miles and carry all your needs with you.

  • I understand your point about sensationalism, but as you might imagine, I don’t agree. Suggesting that parents, schools, environmental organizations etc need to focus on the impact of alienation from nature is not exactly the same as the non-stop coverage of a few abductions — a coverage that is literally conditioning us and our children to believe that abductors lurk on every corner (despite the statistics that show otherwise). Besides, the antidote to nature-deficit disorder isn’t brain surgery; it’s actually fun. Thanks for mentioning the book. I do appreciate the debate (which, by the way, wouldn’t be happening without that subtitle).