Children and Nature: Growing Estranged

Children and Nature: Growing Estranged
My dad taught me years ago we don’t plant trees for ourselves, we plant them for our grandchildren. It was the most important lesson he ever taught me — living my life today as if the future matters.

In my role as chairman of the Three Rivers Park Board, I have come to appreciate his farsighted philosophy even more. It’s not simply about planting trees. It’s about a commitment to long-term stewardship — of our environment, and for our children.

A book was published a few years ago making this very point. “Last Child in the Woods” documents the importance of direct exposure to nature for developing the physical and emotional health of children. Among the startling factoids:

• By the 1990s, the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970.

• Today, average 8-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community.

• The rate at which doctors prescribe antidepressants to children has doubled in the last five years, and recent studies show that too much computer use spells trouble for the developing mind.

The subtitle of “Last Child in the Woods” is “Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” I’m pretty sure that’s not a diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, but it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature.

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1 Comment

  1. Having recently returned to Upper Midwest’s North Coast (Twin Cities, MN), I missed reading this outstanding Anti-NDD testimonial … It reflects my own experience as an aspiring Eco-Futurist (Under Instruction)!

    Following excerpt reinforced my ongoing MentorshipART research into thinkLets (actionable distilled insights) that grow into SmartMemes (ideas that adopt a life of their own) such as those advocated by Arbor Day Farms in Nebraka City, NB …

    MSP-StarTribune: The year Dad passed away, my own children joined me on Arbor Day to each plant a tree in his memory. More recently, I planted another tree for my first grandchild. Those trees reconnect my family with nature, and leave a living legacy for generations to come.


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