by Richard Louv, Algonquin Books, April 15, 2005, 978-1565123915
In his book, Richard Louv is defines Nature-Deficit Disorder: the
growing dissociation of nature from our world and our children's
lives. Step out into the green, and you'll be better off.
That's my experience at least, and even yesterday,
yet another article popped up:
Five minutes in the green can boost self esteem.
Louv's thesis is sound but he beats us over the head with it. He also
goes too far at bashing technology. He couldn't have written his book
without technology. He has a website. For these two reasons, I
stopped reading the book before the end.
[k360] Countless communities have virtually
outlawed unstructured outdoor nature play,
often because of the threat of lawsuits, but
also because of a growing obsession with
[k362] One source of constriction is private government. Most
housing tracts, condos, and planned communities
constructed in the past two to three decades are controlled
by strict covenants that discourage or ban the kind of
outdoor play many of us enjoyed as children. Today,
[k409] "Based on previous studies, we can
definitely say that the best predictor of preschool
children's physical activity is simply being
outdoors," says Sallis, "and that an indoor,
sedentary childhood is linked to mental-health
[k677] Few of us are about to trade our air
conditioners for fans. But one price of progress is
seldom mentioned: a diminished life of the senses.
[k778] Frank Wilson, professor of neurology at the
Stanford University School of Medicine, is an
expert on the co-evolution of the hominid hand
and brain. In The Hand, he contends that one
could not have evolved to its current
sophistication without the other. He says, "We've
been sold a bill of goods-especially
parents-about how valuable computer-based
experience is. We are creatures identified by what
we do with our hands." Much of our learning
comes from doing, from making, from feeling
with our hands; and though many would like to
believe otherwise, the world is not entirely
available from a keyboard. As Wilson sees it,
we're cutting off our hands to spite our brains.
[k791] As naturalist Robert
Michael Pyle says, "Place is what takes me out of
myself, out of the limited scope of human
activity, but this is not misanthropic. A sense of
place is a way of embracing humanity among all
of its neighbors. It is an entry into the larger
This is such a strong value judgment that I was quite
disturbed. I am alive when I am programming or in nature. I am aware
at all times I let myself be. I am alive when I am in touch with
me. This can happen anywhere I choose.
[k815] He looked out across the canyon through the haze of rain. "I
finally felt that I was a part of nature." The context of his life
shifted. He was immersed in living history, witnessing natural events
beyond his control, keenly aware of it all. He was alive. Surely such
moments are more than pleasant memories. The young don't demand
dramatic adventures or vacations in Africa. They need only a taste, a
sight, a sound, a touch-or, as in Jared's case, a lightning strike-to
reconnect with that receding world of the senses. The know-it-all
state of mind is, in fact, quite vulnerable. In a flash, it burns, and
something essential emerges from its ashes.
[k989] "who, as it happens, have all the fun." Nicholson's
"loose-parts" theory has been adopted by many
landscape architects and child's-play experts.
Nicholson summed up his theory this way: "In
any environment, both the degree of inventiveness
and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are
directly proportional to the number and kind of
variables in it." A "loose-parts" toy, as Nicholson
defined it, is open-ended; children may use it in
many ways and combine it with other loose parts
through imagination and creativity.
For those of us who get why software is so complex, we don't have to
choose between nature and computers. They often go together.
[k994] One might argue that a computer, with its
near-infinite coding possibilities, is history's
deepest box of loose parts. But binary code, made
of two parts - 1 and 0 - has its limits. Nature,
which excites all the senses, remains the richest
source of loose parts.
[k1163] "Our brains are set up for an
agrarian, nature-oriented existence that came into
focus five thousand years ago;" says Michael
Gurian, a family therapist and best-selling author
of The Good Son and The Wonder of Boys.
"Neurologically, human beings haven't caught up
with today's overstimulating environment. The
brain is strong and flexible, so 70 to 80 percent of
kids adapt fairly well. But the rest don't.
described in Monitor on Psychology, Hartig asked
participants to complete a forty-minute sequence
of tasks designed to exhaust their
directed-attention capacity. After the
tasks, Hartig then randomly
assigned participants to spend forty minutes
"walking in a local nature preserve, walking in an
urban area, or sitting quietly while reading
magazines and listening to music," the journal
reported. "After this period, those who had
walked in the nature preserve performed better
than the other participants on a standard proofreading
task. They also reported more positive
emotions and less anger."