[Posted at a later date in 2013 after reviewing old essays]
10 September 2012
Saving Children's Connection with Nature
Thinking back on the fondest of childhood memories, the first ones that come to mind always take place outside in the fresh air. Whether it was pretending to be a monkey climbing trees, watching the birds and fish in the lake with my mother, or simply exploring out of doors. Birds singing in the trees, grass between your toes, waves tumbling across the water. It is so peaceful. As I’ve grown older I’ve been able to do more outdoor activities independently and with friends, and have even begun to learn about the complexity of different ecosystems and their organisms. I’m sure that many would agree that being out in nature is the best place to be, yet no one can deny the fact that more and more kids --and even adults-- are drifting away from nature, and I am seeing it happen in my very own community.
As neighborhood safety decreases as well as free time, children are being kept inside, and so they attempt to find other fun things to do inside. I remember being fourteen and not allowed to go to the park by myself. In an age where technological advancements are constant and people become more reliant on technology for things such as work and education, it is also the first choice of entertainment for many kids. While it is true that technology can be very beneficial, things such as television, computers, and video games are often not used in balance. This is not simply a passing phase, it is a trend. Even as children mature and become more independent, many will choose TV over playing outside, and even outdoor playtime is often limited to structured sports. In the suburban community I reside in there was a program called “Nature Camp,” but it didn’t happen like all the other summer camps because in the second most-populated city, in the second largest country in the world, not enough kids signed up. Richard Louv --author of Last Child in the Woords-- described the epidemic of kids being so distanced from nature as “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
So we see the trend, but what effect is it having? According to the Government of Canada’s Healthy Canadians, Child obesity has nearly tripled in Canada over the past 25 years, and one cause is a lack of exercise. It has also been statistically proven that a group of children that spend more time outdoors have greater agility and cognitive abilities than a group that spends little time outdoors. Studies show that unstructured outdoor time in nature is good for people physically, emotionally, and mentally, and have even been known even to reduce depression and prevent Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Too much screen time not only has negative effects, but also negative effects socially. Then there is the problem that is so evident, that many kids just do not care about nature anymore. With one of history’s greatest environmental crises on the rise, the future generation needs to care about the environment and animals. Not only is is good for individuals, it is important socially and for nature itself. Ecosystems and wildlife will need to be protected, and that can only be done if it is appreciated. Nature is important for individuals, communities, and for the sake of the planet.
Nature is not only where physical needs are provided, but has also been the inspiration for all sorts of people, from painters to biologists, and people simply seeking wholesome recreation. It is both genuine art and science, and is a necessary part of the lives of both the young and those who desire to stay young at heart.It is my hope that action being taken in my community will inspire more youth to be drawn to nature, and bring the benefits of the miracles of nature into their lives. In the words of Edna Jaques, “Go out, go out I beg of you And taste the beauty of the wild. Behold the miracle of the Earth With all the wonder of a child.”