Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Last Child in the News

How wonderful to wake up and find that one of my favorite nature books made the front page of the Washington Post. “Getting Lost in the Great Outdoors” brings front-and-center the issue that kids are being raised indoors with little connection to nature, a growing crisis analyzed in Richard Louv’s bestselling book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. This timely volume is on the shelf of every nature center and environmental educator I know, and now more parents will pick it up and learn why spending time outside is essential for children to develop healthy bodies, minds, and spirits. What a good way to start off the summer!

As a devote of the book, I’ve joined Louv’s nonprofit, Children & Nature Network and interviewed him for the Audubon Naturalist News. But the Post had big news for a Louv-groupie like me: the Conservation Fund has organized mayors, governors, and leaders from business, non-profits, and education to raise $20 million to fund programs getting more kids hiking, canoeing, birdwatching, and staring at the clouds. To learn about the many groups participating or to see how you can help yourself, visit the Fund’s page on the National Forum on Children and Nature.

Much deeper into the Post, I also came across an obituary of a consummate hiker: Colin Fletcher. His book, “The Complete Walker,” introduced many in the 1960s to the joys and practicalities of backpacking. When we prepped our packs for a Colorado climb in the late 70s, my teen friends and I dutifully cut the handles off our toothbrushes on Colin Fletcher recommendation. The obituary (originally from the LA Times) calls Fletcher “the man whom some call the J.D. Salinger of the high country” and says his favorite among his books was The Man from the Cave. I haven’t read it, but the Washington Post called it “a work of art, a triumph, a monument to the unique spark of humanity Fletcher intuitively recognized in a wild desert cave.” How poignant to learn of the death of this icon of outdoor adventure after reading in the earlier article that only 8 percent of today’s 9 to 12 year olds spend significant, unstructured time outdoors. Let’s hope that Louv and his followers are as effective as Fletcher and his were in getting people—especially young people—outside.

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