Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Losing Touch With Nature: writer looks at how nature can help our children

Are we losing touch with nature? Is there a generation(s) of children coming up who can only relate to nature distantly, without the true experience of touch, sight, and smell? Today there is more information than ever - more books, more videos, more connections via the Internet for children to learn about nature. But are the oceans, the forests, the plants and animals all becoming just words and images from which we hope that children will grow to respect, protect, and conserve?

Let's hope not, but it is a real concern. I come from a generation who, even when growing up in the populated suburbs of Southern California, chased the butterflies, ate a little dirt, and dreamed of being an explorer. But today, in our hand sanitized, digital screened, concrete mall existence, there can be a real disconnect between the indoor world and the outdoor world.

From the United Arab Emirates, comes an interesting article written by Louisa Wilkins and published in the GulfNews. In How Nature Can Help Your Child, she writes of the changes in how children experience nature and what that can mean not only to the collective fate of the outdoors but to the health, mental and physical, of coming generations.

"In the same way that children need food, water and sleep in order to grow and develop to their full potential, so they need nature. Not only because an hour of play outside in the elements is more physical than an hour on the sofa, but because there are other, more subtle, consequences of children losing touch with nature. [Author, Richard] Louv says, 'Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.' According to his research, the disorder is not just limited to individuals, but entire families and communities. He says, 'Nature-deficit can even change human behaviour in cities, which could ultimately affect their design, since long-standing studies show a relationship between the absence, or inaccessibility, of parks and open space with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies.'"

There is a segment of readers to this blog who are parents and who have thanked me for some of the information I have provided for their children. I am most flattered by this as it is the next generation or two who will really have to move the bar forward regarding conservation, building on the awareness that adults today are trying to generate, and making it the norm. Louisa Wilkins' article is a great read for those parents - and for all of us - as a reminder of how we saw and experienced the outside world growing up and what our children may be missing today.

Read the entire article in the GulfNews.

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