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NWF Book Club: Last Child in the Woods
In Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv takes readers through an in-depth look at our society’s current disconnect from the natural world. Louv uses the term Nature Deficit Disorder to create a framework of understanding for the dilemma faced by families and communities whose youth are too ‘plugged in’ to technology and disconnected from nature. He argues that this disconnect from nature has negative ramifications on the lives of the children, ranging from diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of emotional and physical illness. He also discusses the impact that this will have on the future of the environmental movement.
Join in the Conversation
It is imperative that we combat this issue and get kids, families and individuals outside. We want to hear what you think! Join in the conversation by commenting below. The following are discussion points to help guide you through the conversation. Don’t feel held to these questions, however–share your thoughts and feelings about the book and this important issue.
- Louv talks about the dilemma of limited time that many children face today. One child talks about balancing piano lessons, homework and soccer practice which leaves them two to three hours in a weekend for free play (p118). Homework and other activities outside of school are important for children but so is unstructured play outside. Should parents reduce time on these other activities in favor of unstructured outdoor play? Organized sports get kids outside, do you think is this sufficient or do they need unstructured play as discussed by the author?
- Many environmentalists throughout history and today cite time out in nature as a major factor in leading them to be environmentalists. With today’s children spending less and less time outside many worry that the environmentalist is becoming ‘endangered’ (pp149-151). Louv argues that, ‘If children do not attach to the land, they will not reap the psychological and spiritual benefits they can glean from nature, nor will they feel a long term commitment to the environment, to the place’ (p157). Do you think that people will still fight for the environment and be stewards of the planet if they do not have the experiences of getting out into nature? How have your own experiences in nature impacted the way that you view the environment?
- Part V of the book discusses the importance of environmental education in the schools. Organizations like the National Wildlife Federation work to educate and inspire school children on environmental issues through programs such as EcoSchools USA. These programs fill gaps in established curriculum in schools where children can learn about environmental issues that face their community and the planet. Did you experience environmental education when you were young? If so how did this impact your connection to and understanding of nature?
The separation of children and nature is one that the National Wildlife Federation takes seriously. We are working hard to get kids, families and individuals outside through programs such as the upcoming Great American Backyard Campout. Another program, EcoSchools USA helps get environmental education into schools throughout the US.
In May we will be reading The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance by Tovar Cerulli. This book is a personal look at one man’s connection with food, animals and what it means to be a hunter. It is a thoughtful discussion of our connections with the natural world through our food and what it means to be vegetarian as well as a hunter.
We will do our May book club post on Friday June 1st!
Food for Thought
• Do you hunt or fish? How have these experiences impacted how you connect with nature and wildlife?
• From backyard vegetable gardens to hunting and angling our food can offer unique and powerful experiences in nature. How does the food that you eat connect you to the planet?