WHAT'S IT LIKE TO LIVE WITHOUT NATURE? A 13-Year-Old Tackles Nature-Deficit Disorder (and Wins)

About the Author

Miranda Andersen, 13, lives in a village near Vancouver, B.C. She is one of five subjects of a new book, “Amazing Canadian Kids.” She has created several short films on important issues, including one about endangered coral. In October, she’ll give a TEDx speech on nature-deficit disorder in Canada. She is also working on a film about nature-deficit disorder.

When I was little, my family moved to a house in the woods. We were surrounded by nature – trees, water, deer, bears, salamanders and more birds than we could name. My parents took my brother and me hiking even before we could walk. I had my own kayak by the time I was five.

I don’t suffer from nature-deficit disorder. I don’t know what it’s like to live without nature in my life or to not get outdoors enough, but I can imagine it.

I know lots of people, classmates, friends, adults, who have nature-deficit disorder – people who don’t have access to nature and people who have access to nature but don’t take advantage of it. Sometimes I take nature for granted because it is so much a part of who I am. My life would be very different without nature.

Nature has given me things to protect, inspiration to be creative; it’s given me peace and quiet and a great way to stay healthy. It’s given me things to do and questions to ask. What kinds of school projects would I be doing if I didn’t have something to do about our earth, our oceans, our air, and our animals? What kind of person would I be if I didn’t care about these things as much as I do?

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Miranda Andersen’s painting of a visiting deer.

What would my passions be and where would my motivation come from? What would I do with my time? Would I be making films about the environment and getting my message out to others if nature wasn’t so important to me?

Nature is a gift. It’s something to be unwrapped and cherished and it makes us feel like we want to give back to it.

I love to share this gift with others because it usually has the same effect on them. I feel like people who haven’t experienced nature have been robbed of a gift and kids have been robbed of part of their childhood.

Nature has something to offer everyone and it’s never too late to get outdoors.

When my Mom was a kid in the city she would leave the house in the morning and get home when it got dark. If that was in the summer time it meant she might not return home until ten o’clock at night.  My Dad grew up in a small town and things weren’t much different. He says, “Nobody ever lost an eye.”

But things have changed and parents get scared.  My parents are no different but they still want us to have experiences outdoors that we can turn into memories and you can’t beat the price – it’s free!

Nature has given me so many gifts. The least I can do is to let others in on the secret of how getting outdoors can make such a big difference in their lives.

You don’t have to be out in nature every day all the time to get the benefits of the outdoors. Pick one thing to do, start small, and build up to bigger and better and more often. Learn about your yard, your neighborhood, your community, and your world.

Unwrap these gifts slowly like the best presents you ever had. I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Watch Miranda’s October, 2012, TEDx Talk about Nature-Deficit Disorder.


  1. Miranda, beautifully and eloquently written! You should patent your quotes and put them on tee shirts!!! Brilliant 🙂

  2. Jessica Groenendijk

    Hi Miranda,

    Thanks very much for sharing your wonderful blog, it was a pleasure to read and I will read it again with my 8-year old daughter who also loves nature in all its variety. Keep up the writing and painting and the giving back to nature; you are an inspiration to us all. And good luck with your speech! I hope to be able to watch it here in Cusco, Peru…

    Warm regards,


  3. Of course, I love your message, Miranda — delivered with such heartfelt eloquence. But I’m most moved by your painting. You’ve captured the essence of the animal in so many ways: its expression and posture, somewhere between innocence and caution; the way the sun catches its fur; and of course those big translucent ears! Well done!

  4. Hi Miranda,

    You’ve highlighted a lot of really important and special things in this article – but I think my favorite line is this: “Nature has given me things to protect, inspiration to be creative; it’s given me peace and quiet and a great way to stay healthy.”

    When we wonder why people toss litter on the ground, or don’t care about preventing pollution or protecting natural spaces from destructive development, maybe everything you have mentioned here is the reason why. A sense of protectiveness, a source of inspiration and a place for mental and phyiscal health… if people don’t know that growing up with nature gives these to us, perhaps it is hard to care.

    You’ve written a great article and I hope you have good luck in your future endeavours. Please do write more for the world to read.



  5. What a beautiful and eloquent piece of writing – another gift you have! The world needs young leaders to stand up, speak up and make the old leaders listen! I hope your speech at TEDx has been recorded as I’d love to see, hear and share that.

  6. Thank you for a fantastic article Miranda. I too have valued nature since I was a child and it never stops giving. We need more young people like yourself to face the destruction of our natural systems and promote the intrinsic value of nature to us all.

  7. What a beautiful and eloquent piece of writing Miranda. I was deeply touched by your beautiful painting of the deer – you have captured it grace and beauty. Your passion reminds me of a young Severn Suzuki speaking at the Earth Summit when she was only 12 yrs old. YOU ARE THE REVOLUTION!!! Thank you for all that you are doing to raise awareness of the importance of nature in ALL of our lives. I will be thinking of you when you are doing your speech – you will be amazing!! Love and peace, Marghanita xx

  8. Wonderful. Was the Ted talk recorded…can we see it? I would like to share it with my kids.


  9. Heartrenchingly beautiful, dear Miranda. Shall I translate this into Malayalam for a Nature Education Magazine in Malayalam language (Kerala State, India)? Can you imagine even in a semi-rural land like Kerala, there are several thousand children who are denied access to outdoors and wilderness just because their parents want them to study and get ahead in the material world without realizing the inner yearning and basic right of all children/all beings for freedom and the great outdoor of wild and beautiful Nature. We are a group who are involved in nature orientation for students and creating opportunities for youngsters to get exposed to wild places as well as get involved in eco-restoration work in degraded ecosystems, forest protection and natural farming. Congratulations dear Miranda for the beautiful way you are doing this most important work so young in life.

    We are with you. Love and all solidarity.



  1. Environmental Activist Miranda Andersen - [...] At the BC event Miranda will be talking about “Nature Deficit Disorder,” a phrase she borrowed from her friend,…

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