Monday, November 05, 2007

Reading: The Last Child in the Woods

The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv.

"...[W]hy do so many people no longer consider the physical world worth watching? The highway's edges may not be postcard perfect. But for a century, children's early understanding of how cities and nature fit together was gained from the back seat: the empty farmhouse at the edge of the subdivision; the variety of architecture, here and there; the woods and fields and water beyond the seamy edges-- all that was and is still available to the eye. This is the landscape that we watched as children. It was our drive-by movie." (p. 62, Chapter 5: "A Life of the Senses: Nature vs. the Know-It-All State of Mind")

"If education and other forces, intentionally or unintentionally, continue to push the young away from direct experience in nature, the cost to science itself will be high. Most scientists today began their careers as children, chasing bugs and snakes, collecting spiders, and feeling awe in the presence of nature. Since such untidy activities are fast disappearing, how, then, will our future scientists learn about nature?" (p. 144, Chapter 11: "Don't Know Much About Natural History: Education as a Barrier to Nature")

"...[A]s the care of nature increasingly becomes an intellectual concept severed from the joyful experience of the outdoors, you have to wonder: Where will future environmentalists come from? If environmental groups, along with Scouting and other traditional outdoors-oriented organizations, wish to pass on the heritage of their movement, and the ongoing care of the earth, they cannot ignore children's need to explore, to get their hands dirty and their feet wet." (p. 146, Chapter 12: "Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?")

I'm not even halfway through Last Child in the Woods. I find myself thoughtful, challenged, alarmed, and even occasionally near tears as I read Louv's thoughts on the implications of the increasing lack of direct meaningful experience of nature for our children. A more thorough review to come when I finish the book, though it may take a while for me to finish. Last Child in the Woods is serious, scholarly and thought-provoking, and I need time to absorb one chapter before I move on to the next. Not only is the book providing me with much food for thought, it's striking an emotional chord as well. I come away from reading these first chapters feel immeasurably blessed to have grown up in the country, climbing trees, poking ant hills with sticks, making mud pies from molehills, gardening, coming in tired and dirty and ravenous after a day of running in the woods and the fields. I find myself saddened a little that the kinds of childhood experiences that I was given are simply not available for many children, for my own children even.


Sara said...

Oh yes, I loved that book!

Brit said...

I second that, it has inspired me and motivated me in so many choices we have made for our family.