Wednesday October 14, 2009 | Nature Deficit Disorder

October 13, 2009 at 10:49 am | Posted in Coming Up | 24 Comments

We’re joined by the man who coined the term “nature deficit disorder.” Richard Louv is the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. He works to educate others about the importance of getting kids outside and into nature and away from the TV. We’ll talk about the reasons behind the trend that has driven children out of the woods and fields and how to overcome this trend.
Richard Louv
– Author of Last Child in the Woods and Chairman of the Children and Nature Network

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  1. […] Wednesday October 14, 2009 | Nature Deficit Disorder « Charlotte Blogs – view page – cached We’re joined by the man who coined the term “nature deficit disorder.” Richard Louv is the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. He works to… (Read more)We’re joined by the man who coined the term “nature deficit disorder.” Richard Louv is the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. He works to educate others about the importance of getting kids outside and into nature and away from the TV. (Read less) — From the page […]

  2. I am a science elementary education professor at Belmont Abbey College and I thank you for your book. I use it in my class and many of my lessons encourage outdoor study. My student teachers are teaching science and encouraging outdoor play and study.

  3. Neighborhood associations are obsessed with protecting property values, which has led to the over-regulations of planned devleopments everywhere. I grew up in an urban neighborhood and also had “free rein” as a child, riding my bicycle everywhere and discovering the woods on my own. The type of fear mongering used in the media regarding kidnappings of children does nothing but reinforce the overprotection of children and just won’t let “kids be kids”.

  4. I believe we try to legislate everything because there are so many things out of control that we can’t control – violence, drugs, etc; therefore, we over legislate minor things that law-abiding citizens do to make us think we are in control.

    The world has also lost its sense of humor. Things that would have been laughed off when we were kids (50s – 60s) as “kids will be kids” or as simply a prank now lead to kids being arrested.

    …while the world spins out of control.

    (BTW, one place where people can only have 3 flower pots on their balconies is Hilton Head Resort – the first condo community on Hilton Head. … also, one can’t sit in the common area after 11 PM)

  5. Our dependence in Charlotte on busing kids great distances has for all intents & purposes eliminated walking & biking to school. Thirty years ago 66% of all children walked to school. Walking or biking to school gives children a sense of freedom and responsibility, allows them to enjoy the fresh air, and provides opportunities to get to know their neighborhood while arriving at school alert, refreshed, and ready to start the day…. Today only 13% of American children walk or bike to school.

  6. I can’t wait to read this book. I am the youngest child (35) of parents born in the war years. Our property was adjacent to the elementary school, whose property was ringed with woods. My friends and I were always finding pieces of board and building forts in the woods. My 6 year old is free to play with her friends in our area of the neighborhood and we only ask that she wear pants and sneakers when they go into the little strip of woods behind our house. My husband and I many times use the phrase “we did it when we were young and we turned out fine.”

  7. Mike,
    Pls thank your guest for the fantastic book!
    We had a great experience in the garden this summer at
    Safe Hands Learning Center
    The kids loved “exploring” each day to find out what was new in the garden. They also were able to research on the web about the veggies
    and find recipes that we made with the items they picked!
    Please continue to encourage parents to help kids to connect with nature! I think it will help to decrease the violence we heard about

  8. Being a military brat, I’ve had the benefit of living all over the country while growing up. I found that when I lived in places that had parks, woods, and nature within walking distance to my house, I spend more time playing outside. Where I lived in places that did not offer those things, I spent more time inside. For me, I wouldn’t necessarily blame video games, parents or TV solely for NDD. If a child lives in a poorly designed cul-de-sac subdivision that has no access to real nature, why would they spend more time outside? Our current culture and neighborhood design encourages us to avoid nature.

  9. Thank you for this show. Mike you asked why this has occurred. I believe unstructured time outside is imperative for childhood development. While there are many, many factors that have led to this, I believe there are two huge factors. The first is urban sprawl. When there are more houses than there are trees or grassy areas, there just isn’t anywhere that kids can play without causing distruction to someone’s landscape. The second is the resurgence of working parents. With fewer and fewer stay at home parents, children simply don’t get home early enough during the week to play outside. The kids that do go out are usually by themselves.

  10. I grew up in the 70s. My parents started me off on the path to an outdoor life by doing three crucial things: 1. TV time was limited to the Waltons and Wonderful World of Disney 2. we worked outside together as a family, raking leaves, chopping and hauling wood, etc., 3. they took us hiking to different state and local parks.

    I have 2 kids in college and one in high school and they didn’t have access to cable or satellite t.v.,growing up– only what we can get on an antenna. They used to beg for more access to television, now they tell me we did the right thing by saying no to constant television.

    Thanks! and keep up the good work.

  11. Like yourself Mike, I could disappear for the day and only return for dinner. And I was a child of the ’80s! When I think back on it, I’m amazed my parents allowed myself and my friends to walk/run/bike/skateboard for miles from our homes with no line of communication (this is before the ubiquity of cell phones).

    I’m a father now and I sometimes wonder whether my child will even be able to do this. There’s nowhere for him to go anymore. No woods to explore. No fields in which to play tag… etc. It’s sad.

  12. EXCELLENT TOPIC an so timely!!! We are blessed in this area to have a “resident expert” in ecotherapy: Sally Atkins, professor of human development and psychological counseling and coordinator of expresive arts therapy at Appalachian State Univesity in Boone, NC. With her coinstructor, Keith Davis, courses have been developed that specifically use nature as as adjunct to therapy and have had much success in this field.

    The most recent edition of the American Counseling Association monthly publication, Counsleing Today, showcases an article by Jonathan Rollins highlighting the great benifits in making nature a partner in counseling. Some of the benifits include the lack of the traditional office setting, which can be very threatening to, especially children. There is not the “laying on the couch” mentality with someone sitting in front of you takeing notes on every word you say. Needless to say, this is very threatening to, again, especially children.

    It is proven that children feel more freedom to talk and “open up” when in the company of nature because of the openess and freedom that they feel in a non-restricted atmosphere. The counselor no longer takes on a Freudian look, but becomes a guide and friend in nature. “Nature can assist in the healing process because nature is non-judgemental and is able to accept the client’s feelings and emotions, no matter how raw,” states Rick Carroll, LPC, a counselor in private practice.

    As a graduate student in counseling at Lenoir-Rhyne University, I am intensly studying and practicing equine therapy and other types of pet therapy as adjuncts to counseling. Many benifits of including nature in counseling models are also true for the use of animals, and especially horses.

    Another resource is “Communing With Nature: A Guidebook for Enhancing Your Relationship With the Living Earth” by John Swanson, PhD, LPC who is also a member of the American Counseling Association. In his book, he tells a wonderful story about, as a school counselor, he was able to reach the “disconnected child” who felt no purpose at school by starting a fishing group. He took a group of these children fishing, including the making of luers and equipment, and it gave them a reason to come to school and get involved in other academics.

    Pleae continue this topic and keep up the good work! See you tomorrow night at LRU!

    Claudia Steele
    Graduate Candidate in Counseling

  13. Please pass along the following web site to Richard. &

    This is an organiization that I mentioned to him last night that links kids from the nation’s fragile neighborhoods to mountain biking. Started by Marilyn Price 23 years ago in Marin, CA the organization has grown to 60 chaptrs across the US with the Charlotte chapter being one of the most active.


    Harry Johnson
    Tripsforkids Charlotte

  14. I would like to refer you guest to the TTS (The Traveling School). Several girls form charlotte have particiapated in this incredable scj=hool. they travle in non western contries living out side or in hostel of with local families. They study their butts off on local history, writing, sciensce, business, art, culture the list goes on.
    It is a conbnation out Riguous academics, out door adventure and community service.



  15. Thank you for the wonderful book. I found it enlightening and affirming to my beliefs.
    I have been studying sustainable agriculture with Tony Kleese out of Chapel Hill. He has been promoting that housing developments reserve an acre of land for community based farming. Would this not be a potential synergy for future directions of communities?

  16. I am the Lower School Principal at Charlotte Preparatory School. I recommended your book to the parents at Charlotte Prep at our curriculum night. We have written and received two grants this year that deal with science and nature. Our lower school students have been identifying caterpillars, spiders and other insects this year as a part of the science program. We’ve explored the various trees on campus and have a new appreciation of nature. Yesterday, we tagged five Monarch butterflies that were on their fall migration to Mexico.

    I love seeing the excitement in our students’ eyes when they find a new caterpillar or when they learn something new. Thank you for helping to awaken this generation of children. I have a quote from one of our 1st graders-

    “I love mother nature because you can study it and you can play with it and you know that you are never alone.” -Kyle, age 6

  17. What do we do to change social norms? I take my toddlers hiking and biking all the time as I did as a child, and will let them do it indepently when they are old enough – but neighbors think I’m nuts. How do we overcome these social norms?

    • RE: Bill Clarks’s post – Social Norms. You and I have to stick together! We just moved to a “nice” neighborhood in Charlotte where I know plenty of children live, but I don’t see them after school out riding bikes, walking around, etc. Parents whose kids get off the school bus at their own door are still standing outside waiting for them because “you never know what could happen.” I actually feel guilty for letting my daughter cross our neighborhood street and walk 15 seconds home by herself. What has happened to our generation (30 somethings) that has made us so scared? I actually feel in competition to out-do one another in terms of protective measures.

  18. I have two comments:
    1)Have you read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee? One issue I think this generation of parents should really address in their parenting is their fear of injury–which they instill in their children–not that we want children to get injured, but we allow them to risk some injury in order to push themselves and grow–

    2)I think you’ve missed one thing in your comments about how parents protect their kids these days–it is no accident that crimes against children have gone down–they’ve gone down because children are watched–they are with a grown-up, who makes sure they are not hurt. The “crimes” committed against me as a child were committed by other children when there were no adults around–most kids in my generation had some experiencee of being hurt by other children–ideas like this are best if they recognize what the dangers are and help parents solve them, rather than telling them their fears are unfounded–

  19. Heard just a “glimpse” of (re)broadcast. Taught Earth/Environmental Science for five years and loved to take the kids outside. Had a great campus for hands on teaching. Administration, on the other hand, says “your vocabulary is too big” and the nebulous “you don’t connect with your children” (this is 10-12 grade science!). More of the students given me are in jail than in college, but they still remember studying all the school’s sewerage system! ….Skip

  20. I am eternally grateful for the urban wilderness of my childhood where we spent long days playing. There is no “virtual world” that could come close to the endless possibilities of riding bicycles as far as our legs would carry us, the adventures of exploring woods, ponds, ravines & creeks, or the wonder of a clear star-lit summer night sky that made us realize the expanse of the universe.

  21. Nature Deficit Disorder is definitely a real phenomenon. This is because we as a society and civilization are moving away from Nature and in to largely Nature-less cities and suburbs.

    The overall population continues to move away from the countryside and small towns and in to the cities and suburbs just to make a living. Thus, by definition, Nature is being left largely behind. The woods, farmland, and so on are being paved over and turned in to strip malls, neighborhoods, roads, buildings, etc.

    In many areas of the world the countryside and small towns – both of which are surrounded by Nature – are being abandoned for the cities and suburbs – both of which are Nature-less. Again, many people have no choice because they have to make a living, and there is too difficult to make a living away from the cities and suburbs to which most have become accustomed and in to which almost all commerce and money is being concentrated. Drive all around the USA, away from the main freeways and highways, and everywhere you see small towns and whole swathes of countryside almost entirely abandoned and forgotten, its former citizens left to live in the cities and suburbs surrounding those cities.

    The best way to cure NDD is to de-centralize populations, to encourage populations to move away from the increasingly large cities and suburbs and back out in to the small towns and countryside.

    We Americans are incredibly lucky to still have a huge amount of Nature left open to us, while in the very densely populated areas of Europe, Asia, etc there is very little true Nature left. We Americans should take more advantage of the Nature still available to us before it is lost to over-development.

    • Appropriate quotes by Oswald Spengler:

      “Long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.”

      “It is the Late city that first defies the land, contradicts Nature in the lines of its silhouette, denies all Nature. It wants to be something different from and higher than Nature. These high-pitched gables, these Baroque cupolas, spires, and pinnacles, neither are, nor desire to be, related with anything in Nature. And then begins the gigantic megalopolis, the city-as-world, which suffers nothing beside itself and sets about annihilating the country picture.”

      “The transition from Culture to Civilization was accomplished for the Classical world in the fourth, for the Western in the nineteenth century. Form these periods onward the great intellectual decisions take place, no longer all over the world where not a hamlet is too small to be unimportant, but in three or four world-cities that have absorbed into themselves the whole content of History, while the old wide landscape of the Culture, become merely provincial, served only to feed the cities with what remains of its higher mankind. World-city and province–the two basic ideas of every civilization–bring up a wholly new form-problem of History, the very problem that we are living through today with hardly the remotest conception of its immensity. In place of a world, there is a city, a point, in which the whole life of broad regions is collecting while the rest dries up. In place of a type-true people, born of and grown on the soil, there is new sort of nomad, cohering unstably in fluid masses, the parasitical city dweller, traditionless, utterly matter-of-fact, religionless, clever, unfruitful, deeply contemptuous of the countryman and especially that highest form of countryman, the country gentleman. This is a very great stride towards the inorganic, towards the end–what does it signify?

      The world-city means cosmopolitanism in place of “home” . . . To the world-city belongs not a folk but a mob. Its uncomprehending hostility to all the traditions representative of the culture (nobility, church, privileges, dynasties, convention in art and limits of knowledge in science), the keen and cold intelligence that confounds the wisdom of the peasant, the new- fashioned naturalism that in relation to all matters of sex and society goes back far to quite primitive instincts and conditions, the reappearance of the panem et circenses in the form of wage-disputes and sports stadia–all these things betoken the definite closing down of the Culture and the opening of a quite new phase of human existence–anti-provincial, late, futureless, but quite inevitable.”

  22. Most of the open land in this country is now off limits as private ownership and possessiveness have intensified. Out of bounds children, innocently exploring as is natural, might wind up in juvenile court for trespassing against our elite landlords who must own it all. That fear is real. And there is an unreal fear that keeps people separate, keeps them afraid to organize or speak out, keeps them too timid to watch out for one another’s children. There is an unspoken structural violence that exists within intensified commercialism and predatory employments. If you spend all day at the office collecting bills, trying to sell a scam, or spying on the spending and tastes of others it becomes pretty difficult to have solidarity among neighbors. We know we are doing wrong to make a living and the dissonance is distorting our children’s lives. This malady has no future inside or out and cyberspace (where many try to find refuge) is a stronghold of this perversion. Go on paying for your life by the minute, or seize it and live together.

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