Pbk: 320 pp
Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain
With the publication of his landmark book Last Child in the Woods in 2010, Richard Louv not only pointed out the shocking fact that, Our children are the first generation to be raised without meaningful contact with the natural world but made his mark on history by coining the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder.’ This, as so many parents and grandparents and teachers have realized by now, is a state of affairs that we need to remedy as promptly as possible.
We need to do this, not only for our children’s sake but for our own. For as Louv pointed out in his second book The Nature Principle, it is not only children who are in urgent need of reconnection with the rest of Nature but adults as well. Dazzled and seduced by 21st century technology, we and our children all spend so much time staring at screens nowadays that there is no time left for a walk in the woods, for gazing dreamily into the night sky or even for enjoying some peace and silence.
So how to remedy the situation? This third book is a huge and marvellous collection of ideas and resources and it is aimed at doing just that. No matter what sorts of activities appeal to you and your family, whether it is geocaching, camping in the countryside, recording birdsong, building a treehouse, taking photos, making a pond in the garden or any one of the five hundred suggested Nature-based activities that Louv has put forward, there is bound to be some idea in it that will capture your imagination.
As the book’s blurb explains, it includes: …tips not only for parents eager to share nature with their kids but also for finding nature-centered schools, medical professionals, and even careers; suggestions for calming infants through nature, building a nature vocabulary with toddlers, and measuring weather with elementary school children, as well as helping tweens become citizen scientists…
Louv is no Luddite, however. He has incorporated modern technology into his life in the same way that most of us have. In fact he ruefully describes an occasion when he found himself going all shaky at the prospect of spending four days so far out into the backwoods that there would be no phone signal. So although he points out the curative power of regular periods of ‘technofasting,’ and reminds us that even a techno-emperor like Steve Jobs limited his own children’s exposure to electronic gadgets, he is a realist. What we need to do, he maintains, is develop what he calls the ‘Hybrid Mind.’ The point isn’t that technology is bad for kids and the rest of us, he explains, …but that daily, monthly, yearly electronic immersion without a force to balance it can drain our ability to pat attention, the think clearly, to be productive and creative.. A number of the suggestions in the book make use of electronic gadgets such as sound recorders and mobile phones, however, … the trick is to maintain an emphasis in direct experience, and use digital technology when it’s appropriate, in a way that doesn’t block the senses of the user or the people nearby.
As well as encouraging his readers to get out of the house, Louv also provides numerous suggestions for optmizing the eco-friendliness of one’s immediate environment of backyard, balcony or window-box. He even offers ideas for transforming our indoor living spaces with the help of natural materials and Feng Shui, (the oriental art of placement).
All in all this is a truly impressive collection of ideas and well worth a place on the bookshelf of every parent and teacher and anyone involved with children or teens.