Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder

Following are some excerpts/concepts from this excellent book by Richard Louv
Review by Sandra Cosentino

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.  The disorder can be detected in individuals, families and communities.

Sensory magic occurs when we are exposed to even the smallest direct experience of a natural setting. And brings with it so many values; such as,  complete relaxation, a sense of pattern and order, a sense of wonder.  It can help us develop a habit of quiet and concentration and allow us to use more imagination than in structured environments.  When we witness natural events beyond human control such as lightning, there is a keen sense of being alive.

Ecstatic memories give us meaningful images, an internalized core of calm, a sense of integration with nature, and for some, a creative disposition.   Ecstatic memories require space, freedom, discovery, and and extravagant display for all five senses.  And behind this is the effusive quality of loveliness.

In the most nature-deprived corners of our world we can see the rise of what might be called cultural autism. The symptoms?  Tunneled senses, and feelings of isolation and containment.  Experience, including physical risk, is narrowing to about the size of a cathode ray tube, or flat panel if you prefer.  Atrophy of the senses was occurring long before we came be bombarded with the latest generation of computers, high-definition TV, and wireless phones.  Urban children, and many suburban children, have long been isolated from the natural world because of a lack of neighborhood parks, or lack of opportunity—lack of time and money for parents who might otherwise take them out of the city.

“We are beginning to lose the ability to experience our world directly.” (Edward Reed, The Necessity of Experience)

“Children live through their senses.  Sensory experiences link the child’s exterior world with their interior, hidden, affective world.  Since the natural environment is the principal source of sensory stimulation, freedom to explore and play with the outdoor environment through the senses in their own space and time is essential for healthy development of an interior life.”  (Robin Moore, director of the National Learning Initiative)

Not surprisingly, as the young grow up in a world of narrow yet overwhelming sensory input, many of them develop a wired, know-it-all state of mind.  Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

D.H. Lawrence describes his own awakening to nature’s sensory gift in Taos, New Mexico, as an antidote to the know-it-all state of mind, that poor substitute for wisdom and wonder:  “Superficially, the world has become small and known.  There is no mystery left, we’ve been there, we’ve seen it, we know all about it...Yet the more we know, superficially, the less we penetrate, vertically.  It’s all very well skimming across the surface of the ocean and saying you now all about the sea...We are mistaken.  Underneath is everything we don’t know and are afraid of knowing.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. Perhaps this is why I am being drawn to working with children in a way that can restore their connection with Nature. Learning and being outdoors brings balance to each of us, our communities and ultimately, we hope, the world.


Popular Posts

You May Also Enjoy Southwest Cross-Cultural Wisdom Circle