Great article in the San Francisco Chronicle, today. ‘Nature Deficit Disorder‘ discusses young people’s growing alienation from nature. After reading it, I sat wondering, and very concerned. The article hits close to home. Our children spend hardly any time in nature, although we live minutes from great hiking trails, and only 30′ from the beach, and two hours from the mountains. Shopping, driving to each other’s houses, hanging out, and staring at the computer, have become their way of life. It is not for a lack of an example on our part. Prad and I go for long walks every day. I hike up the trail behind our house. We go to the beach. No, the problem is not there, but rather in a combination of cultural and environmental factors. The article lists five possible factors:
- Urbanization: 80% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, where opportunities to connect with nature are much less.
- Virtualization: children 8 to 18 spend an average of 61/2 hours a day with electronic media, either on the computer, in front of the TV, playing video games, or on the phone talking or texting.
- Parental fears of letting their children loose in nature: fears fed by sensationalistic reporting of rare occurences.
- Overbooked schedules, with heightened pressure to take AP classes and enter prestigious colleges.
- Lack of opportunities to connect with nature, in children from lower socio-economic background.
My most favorite childhood memories are of the times I spent in nature. Playing hide and seek in the wheat field near my parents’ house. Summers at my grandparents’ farm. Making necklaces out of grass. Picking up mushrooms in the woods. Eight year old, maybe, and biking alone, along empty roads in the midst of the country, savoring my freedom. With friends, trying to catch fishes with a fork, in the stream outside our village. Picking up red poppies, and making a bouquet for my mother. My first discovery of the beach, I was twelve. Hiking in the French alps. Rolling down the meadows. Looking for snails after the rain. Picking up grapes in my grandfather’s vineyards. Afternoon spent in the fields watching the goats graze, some baguette with butter and pear as my reward. The smell of rain. It all felt so good.