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Nature-Deficit Disorder

Author Richard Louv introduced the term "Nature-Deficit Disorder" in 2005 with the publication of his bestselling 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).

His 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 invention 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 overweight, 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,” as well as 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 the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) research section. C&NN was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working to reconnect children with nature. C&NN believes that more research is necessary to better define the influence of nature experiences on human development. But as Howard Frumkin, Dean of the School of Public Health, University of Washington, says, "we know enough to act." Frumkin currently serves as chairman of the C&NN board of directors.

C&NN is helping lead the international movement to connect children, families and communities to the natural world. The Network provides a critical link between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of children, families and communities.

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“A back-to-nature movement to reconnect children with the outdoors is burgeoning nationwide.”
— USA Today, Nov. 2006
All of us share a sense of common purpose. We represent many, many others—some we know, and others we have never met. People throughout the world are increasingly connected by a resonance and passion, to create a new common sense for the good health of children today and generations to come.
– Cheryl Charles
“The movement to reconnect children to the natural world has arisen quickly, spontaneously, and across the usual social, political, and economic dividing lines.”
Orion magazine

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C&NN Publications

As part of our ongoing efforts to build the movement, the Children & Nature Network has published these resources for leaders, organizers, and participants at the local, national, and international levels:

2010 C&NN Report
[>] Download PDF [2MB]

Children and Nature 2009: A Report on the Movement to Reconnect Children to the Natural World
[>] Download PDF [1.1MB]

C&NN Community Action Guide: Building the Children & Nature Movement from the Ground Up
[>] Download PDF [1.4MB]
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