Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the International Bestseller Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder

ON PEOPLE & NATURE

The Virtual Blacksmith Shop: In the post-Covid world, working from home may be the norm. It's an old tradition.

When my boys were small, I considered myself lucky to work at home. At the time, I missed my colleagues in the newsroom. Still do, on both counts. In 1995, I wrote a column about working from home, which was later included in The Web of Life, and adapted here:

We should be cautious when we talk about traditional fatherhood. Which tradition?

As a writer, I spend much of my time in a home office staring at a computer screen. Often on weekends, or after school, my sons head for the small Macintosh that sits a few feet away from my bigger Mac. I work in a virtual blacksmith shop.

Working from home was the norm for many parents before the Industrial Revolution swept men up and sent them off to the widget factories, and later to office parks and office building, where women eventually and rightly joined them.

In those days, fathers spent a lot of time close to their children. On the farm, in the store downstairs, in the blacksmith shop next door, a child might work with his father, might hand him the tools of his trade or might play to one side while his father worked.

The sinew of this earlier tradition was time and proximity. Being there. Being nearby. And of course this was true for mothers and their children, too.

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Our Wild Calling: Release of New Paperback Edition

Today, the paperback edition of “Our Wild Calling” is officially released. I hope you’ll share this news with friends and colleagues. They may find it especially helpful during the time of Covid, as we increasingly turn to other animals (wildlife and pets) for meaning and connection — not only for our sake, but for the sake of the larger family of animals.

We’ve added a new section to this edition, including: a comprehensive resource list for people who want to take action at home and beyond (organizations focused on habitat and animal welfare; sources for job possibilities; research and educational resources. Also: a list of discussion questions for book groups, schools and classes (hopefully held outdoors); and an author Q&A related to the pandemic and new research. Hardback, ebook, audible, large print, and foreign editions are also available.

I’m deeply appreciative for the support so many of you continue to give to “Our Wild Calling,” as well as “Last Child in the Woods” and my other books; and also to the Children & Nature Network and other good organizations connecting children, families and communities to the natural world.

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Woman of the Prairie

Photo by Matthew Henry on Wunderstock

Recently, I have been thinking about Lucy Hollembeak, a surviver of the 1918 influenza pandemic. I first met her when I worked as a college intern for The Arkansas City Daily Traveler, in a hard-edged little town on the Kansas and Oklahoma border.

I was nineteen and knew no one in the town beyond the paper’s staff. My high school history teacher in Kansas City, Gerald Hollembeak, had suggested I look up his mother.

So I did. In June 1968, I introduced myself to her. Her husband had died in 1959, and since then she had lived alone. Every few evenings we would talk about politics, about religion, about what we came to call “the ache,” the painful pleasure of being alive.

As I came to know and admire her, I was moved by her wisdom—how she conserved what was valuable, appreciated what was small, needed little, but had a mind as broad as the prairie itself. She had written poetry all of her life, scribbled on scraps of paper. When I returned to college, after my summer in Ark City, a poem or two would arrive in the mail now and then.

Decades passed. I had not seen her since that summer.

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Readers Have Been Sending Photos. Please Send Yours.

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What is Nature-Deficit Disorder?

The term Nature-Deficit Disorder® was introduced in 2005 with the publication of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

I 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), but as a way to talk about an urgent problem that many of us knew was growing, but had no language to describe it. The term caught on, and is now a rallying cry for an international movement to connect children to rest of nature. Since then, this New Nature Movement has broadened to include adults and whole communities.

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The Children & Nature Network: Please Give Kids the Gift of Nature

Over a decade ago a small group of hopeful people co-founded the Children & Nature Network. As you know, C&NN was created to bring together unlikely allies from all over the country, and now the world, to build a movement to connect children and nature and overcome what, in Last Child in the Woods, I called nature-deficit disorder.

Each December, my wife, Kathy, and I write a year-end check to C&NN. If you haven’t already become a member of C&NN or made a donation, I hope you’ll join us this week.

Here are some examples of C&NN’s good work:

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15 Characteristics of Leadership Writing

A few years ago, I worked with a national awards program called Leadership for a Changing World. Sponsored by the Ford Foundation, it honored grassroots leaders who were making life better in communities of hardship and possibility. That program continued as an initiative of New York University|Wagner. Curiously, these inspiring people did not think of themselves as leaders. But surely they practiced the kind of leadership we need most.

My job was to advise the award-winners on how to best frame and communicate their issues. As part of that work, I put together a list of characteristics of what I considered Leadership Writing. In 2018, these principles may seem archaic, even naive, but I continue to believe in their effectiveness and practice them. I hope these 15 principles are useful to you. Also, as you read the work of journalists, columnists, bloggers—or listen to the speeches of politicians—ask yourself if they exhibit these traits. My favorite leaders do.

Leadership Writing ....

  1. Paints a picture of a world people will want to go to.
  2. Consists of one third complaint, two-thirds solution.
  3. Builds bridges rather than calling names.
  4. Compares and contrasts in a respectful way.
  5. Kills jargon.
  6. Appeals to higher values shared by the opposition.
  7. Offers contrarian, unexpected points of view.
  8. Undermines stereotypes, reaches beyond the writer’s own culture.
  9. Anticipates unintended consequences.
  10. Avoids over-reliance on the “importance” of the issue. (Every issue is “important.”)
  11. Looks for the simplifying model.
  12. Helps people see what they already know but cannot picture.
  13. Uses humor whenever possible.
  14. Serves as an antidote to cultural depression.
  15. Offers accurate hope, because there is no practical alternative.
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Writers on Writing

Jack London. Writing. Outdoors.

As mentioned is an earlier post, when working with grassroots leaders some years ago, my job was to help them communicate more effectively with the public—something they usually did just fine on their own. Still, we all need a boost from time to time. For myself and for them, I gathered a collection of my favorite quotes from writers about writing—and offered a few thoughts of my own:

“No Music + Bad TV = Bad Mood + No Pages.” — Hunter S. Thompson

“You only want to work on the stuff you’re not supposed to be working on. That’s how it always is. I’ll always be working on five things at once, usually with those documents open at the same time because if I get stuck somewhere I’ll jump over to something else. That’s how my head has always worked. I don’t know if it’s ‘cause I watched too much TV as a kid or what. It really could be that.” — Dave Eggers, author of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”

“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.” — 
Anne Lamott, author of “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”

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Give the Gift of the Universe

Photo Credit: Artless Photos, Creative Commons

Please join me by becoming a Charter Member of the Children & Nature Network. To help take our movement to the next level, C&NN is moving to a membership model. Your support will help children around the world experience the wonder of nature. — Richard Louv

Click here to join the Children & Nature Network before December 31, 2017 and be recognized as a Charter Member. As a Charter Member, you’ll have increased opportunities to engage with leaders in our movement, gain valuable support & resources. You will join like-minded changemakers in creating a more powerful constituency for our issue—and help shape the future of the children and nature movement.

Afew years ago, Madhu Narayan, a Girl Scout leader in San Diego, told me this story: “In my first counseling job, with another organization, I took children with AIDS to the mountains who had never been out of their urban neighborhoods. One night, a nine-year-old woke me up. She had to go to the bathroom. We stepped outside the tent and she looked up. She gasped and grabbed my leg. She had never seen the stars before.

“That night, I saw the power of nature on a child. She was a changed person,” said Narayan.” From that moment on, she saw everything, even the camouflaged lizard that everyone else skipped by. She used her senses. She was awake.”

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Higher Entrance Fees Will Hurt Our National Parks: Let the National Park Service Know What You Think by Dec. 22, 2017

The National Parks are called that for a reason. They’re not the Parks for the One Percent. Not just the Parks for People with Cool Gear.

Some people say there are too many people visiting the nation’s parks. They argue that increasing entry fees specifically during peak visitation times will help keep the parks open and maintained—especially, they say, because the current administration is unlikely to adequately fund them.

It’s true that attendance at some National Parks has skyrocketed, and that some visitors have damaged them. The New York Times reports that Zion National Park’s “delicate desert ecosystem has been battered by tourists, some of whom wash diapers in the Virgin River, scratch their names into boulders and fly drone cameras through once quiet skies.” One suggestion is rather than charging higher fees, parks should take reservations and cap attendance when that’s needed. That’s more equitable than raising fees.

As to the economic argument, the administration is “hoping” that higher fees will bring in an estimated $68 million. But at the same time, the administration would cut the National Park Service budget by a whopping $322 million, through a regressive fee that will hurt new users (who are less likely to buy a pass) the most.

Another truth is that attendance at many of our National Parks dropped radically in past decades. Not surprisingly, so did political support for them. Fortunately, in more recent years, attendance began to rise, in some parks substantially, but that increase appears to be primarily among aging Baby Boomers. Visitations still lag among families with children and people who are not white or affluent. As for overuse, yes, some parts of our National Parks are overcrowded, but congestion is typically on the roads, not deeper in the park. Especially in some of the most popular parks, few visitors get more than a quarter mile, if that, from their cars.

Reducing financial support for parks is unconscionable; raising fees will be counterproductive.

The National Park Service has extended its public comment deadline to Dec. 22.

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