Co-founder and author Richard Louv introduced the term “Nature-Deficit Disorder” in 2005 with the publication of his best-selling book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” He coined the phrase to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from nature and it is not meant to be a medical diagnosis (although perhaps it should be).
Louv’s 2011 book, “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age,” extended the conversation to include adults, and explored this key question: “What could our lives and our children’s lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology?”
Although human beings have been urbanizing, and then moving indoors, since the introduction of agriculture, social and technological changes in the past three decades have accelerated that change.
Among the reasons: the proliferation of electronic communications; poor urban planning and disappearing open space; increased street traffic; diminished importance of the natural world in public and private education; and parental fear magnified by news and entertainment media. An expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world. These problems are linked more broadly to what health care experts call the “epidemic of inactivity,” and to a devaluing of independent play. Nonetheless, we believe that society’s nature-deficit disorder can be reversed.
Recent studies focus not so much on what is lost when nature experience fades, but on what is gained through more exposure to natural settings, including nearby nature in urban places.
Abstracts to many of these studies, often linked to the original research, can be found at our research section. The Children & Nature Network was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working to reconnect children with nature. We believe more research is necessary to better define the influence of nature experiences on human development. But as Dr. Howard Frumkin, Dean of the School of Public Health, University of Washington, and a member of our Board of Directors says, “we know enough to act.”
By taking a lead role in the international movement to connect children, families and communities to the natural world, we are striving to reinforce the critical link between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of children, families and communities.