I have a pet peeve which involves pharmaceutical companies giving every minor aliment a name, and then marketing a drug to combat said new ailment. Disorder-this, syndrome-that; it seems all designed to play into people’s fears and desire for an easy fix. But there’s a new disorder that’s been tossed about lately, and this one I am buying into: Nature Deficit Disorder.
In the recently published book by Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, the author explores the tremendous divide between children and the outdoors. Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s “wired” generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
According to Louv, Americans are spending less time outside than ever before, and it’s contributing to a decreased understanding of and appreciation for the natural world. This increasing “nature deficit” is not only threatening America’s long-standing conservation ethic, but has resulted in alarming child health issues.
Studies show that when children have time for unstructured play and interaction with nature, they benefit immensely. It helps increase understanding of their connection to nature, in addition to improved physical, mental and emotional health. So here a disorder is created, and the solution isn’t pharmaceuticals, but simply to go outside and play. How elegant is that?
For some kids it’s easier than for others–they can throw open the back door and go look at tadpoles in the backyard pond. Many kids don’t have the most inspiring backyards, and many a city kid has to make a trek to the park to get some dirt and trees into their day. But no matter what the effort is, getting kids outside couldn’t be more important.
One stunning conclusion about this simple argument is that not only is it crucial for our kids’ health, but also for the health of our planet. An agreeable environment will depend on future generations of nature lovers, and the best way to ensure future conservationists is to get our kids outside and loving nature.
What can we do? Well, unplug our kids and get them making mud pies first of all. Check out our collection of family nature activities for any time of the year.
Also, you can urge Acting U.S. Surgeon General Steven Galson to promote the benefits of daily outdoor play in nature for all children and families by signing the Care2 Help Make Outdoor Time a National Priority petition. By increasing awareness about this possible epidemic of nature-evasive future generations, we not only help our future generations, but the longevity of a healthy planet as well.