In a sunlit corner of the London Wetland Centre in Barnes, south-west London, my daughter, Clemmie, two, is bending perilously over a pond. "Mummy! Green stuff! Fishies," she coos. Entranced, her sister, Sasha, four, stares at a butterfly. "He is my friend," she declares.
Watching them, my heart swells with delighted relief. Like most parents, I am terrorised by images of my 21st-century children growing up sun-starved and chubby, wedded to their Nintendo console and thinking that bacon comes from cows and that milk is concocted in a backroom lab at Tesco.
Next month the pressure to give our children more access to nature will intensify further with the UK publication of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. A huge bestseller in Louv's native US, the book caused a mini revolution when it was first published in 2005, leading to the forming of the international Children and Nature Network, campaigning to reconnect with the outdoor world.
A former journalist, Louv coined the phrase "nature deficit disorder", arguing that children suffer physically and mentally from lack of contact with nature and pointing out that today's generation are the first to be raised without "meaningful contact with the natural world".
Louv's is by no means a lone voice. A recent report by Play England, the campaigning group for children, showed that the "radius of activity", meaning the distance from home children are allowed to play unsupervised, has declined by 90 per cent since the Seventies. Another…
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