Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods



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. Often, these inspiring people often did not think of themselves as leaders. Today, they're exactly the kind of leaders we need most. My job was to work with 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. Today, 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.
  16.  Read Full Post.


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” Read Full Post.


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." Read Full Post.

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.  Read Full Post.

IMAGINE A NEWER WORLD: Especially in these times, we need the courage of our idealism

Six years ago, I gave a speech to high school and middle school students (a tough audience) in La Crosse, Wisconsin. When I finished, a young woman stood up in the front row and challenged me to do what I had just asked them to do — paint a verbal picture of a future in which the human relationship with the rest of nature was a central organizing principle.

"Well, I've written two books about that," I said. She did not accept my answer. "I don't want to read your books,” she said. “Tell me, right now." I sputtered out a shotgun response, which later became the essay appearing in the 2012 paperback edition of "The Nature Principle." 

Recently, I posted a version of it on the website of the Children & Nature Network, the nonprofit I co-founded after the publication of "Last Child in the Woods." Here’s a link to the essay. It imagines a very different future of nature-rich schools, homes, neighborhoods, and cities for children and for adults. I hope you'll give it a read, and pass the link on to friends and colleagues. Read Full Post.

We Need an NRA for Nature

Anne Pearse Hocker, photo © Doug Graham

The other day, I received a note from a good friend, photojournalist Anne Pearse Hocker. In the 1970s, she snuck across a no man’s land into the Wounded Knee encampment, and spent weeks photographing the protest. Those photos are currently in the Smithsonian Museum. A widow, she now lives in a cabin with two dogs, two cats and two hunting falcons.

She loves the wild landscape of the West, is dismayed by new threats to it, and is surprised by a change in her internal landscape.

“Something new is needed,” she wrote. She referenced the Women’s March in Helena: “Here in deep red Montana, over 10,000 people marched in Helena, smashing all records and expectations. The organizers started out hoping for 500. The night before the march they predicted possibly 5,000. Meanwhile, the state’s Central Democratic Committee virtually ignored it. As if it never happened.” She does not believe that her own party understands the growing anger and sense of urgency that she and others like her feel. “Someone or something needs to ride that wind before it gets away.”

It's time to build an NRA for nature — an environmental or conservation force comparable to the nation’s powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association — one capable of striking fear into the heart of, say, any climate-change-denying politician, Republican, Democrat, or Other.

You may or may not like the NRA, but you have to admit that the organization, like the Tea Party, knows how to get its way.

A handful of green groups aspire to that political power, and many have done a good job influencing regulatory policies, but I can’t recall the last time I read about an environmental or conservation group mounting a successful campaign to boot multiple members of Congress from office. Maybe it’s happened, but not often enough. And now the ante is upped. If political candidates aren’t afraid of environmentalism’s political power, what good is environmental activism?

Have we reached a point where environmentalism is less about political power than about moral preening? Or lifestyle choices? Read Full Post.




On inauguration day in 1961, I was 11 going on 12. I was home sick, under a blanket, in my grandmother’s parlor. She lived in Independence, Missouri in the white Victorian house her parents built in the 1880s. Her house was a few blocks from the Truman home. She was born in 1884, when Chester A. Arthur was president. He succeeded President James A. Garfield, assassinated in 1881.

She was a kind, quiet widow who took in roomers during the Depression. I don’t recall her ever saying anything unkind to or about anyone. I was convinced the house was haunted.

On the day the young president stepped to the microphone, I was watching a small black and white Philco. I recall that speech, and that room, as vividly as I remember the other images and feelings that came later, on the day he died.

It was bitterly cold on the day of the inauguration. Kennedy did not wear a hat. As he spoke, I sat up, deeply inspired and didn’t know why. It was not what he said, it was how he said it. Even with his flaws, Kennedy lifted us up, made us feel that we were a better people.

Barack Obama was born six months later.

Many years later, I was in a high school auditorium on Chicago’s South Side. I had been invited to attend Obama's announcement of a White House program that would provide a free annual pass to every 4th grader, and their entire family, to any National Park and many other federal lands and waters. Private money would be raised to provide buses for the kids least likely to experience wilderness.

Before he spoke, about 30 of us were ushered behind a curtain to meet the president.

 Read Full Post.

FLYOVER LAND: What's Right With Kansas

Photo by Rachel Miles, Creative Commons

Photo by Rachel Miles, Creative Commons


riving south on Interstate 135, from Salina toward Arkansas City, I can see the giant rolls of hay that look like mammoth shredded wheat, and the long hedgerows of Osage orange trees planted as windbreaks during the Depression, now taller than I remember them.

Cream white waves of tall grass. The wind coming across, always the wind.

This is the flyover land. Jets stream far above and people with briefcases and laptop computers look down and feel glad that they are not driving across this seeming emptiness. But when you drive across north and central Kansas, particularly if you are originally from this country, you do not feel the fatigue and the tension that accumulates on urban freeways.

The land is soothing and nurturing and layered with mystery. Riding a bus across the state in the '60s, I remember awakening suddenly, a bit disoriented, sitting up in the night to see long lines of flame stretching across the Flint Hills prairie, annually burned by ranchers.

The lines of flame were galactic in their brilliance and desolation and beauty. Now, decades later, the miles fly by.

 Read Full Post.

Celebrating 10 Years of the Children & Nature Network

Click here to help C&NN give the gift of nature to millions of additional kids.

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Photo: Storm over Anza-Borrego Desert, © R.L.


ur story – our shared yearning to reconnect children to the natural world – represents one of the few concerns in America that brings people together across partisan and religious lines.

To change a society, as the philosopher Ivan Illich wrote, “you must tell a more powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into our future so that we can take the next step...”
So, today, how do we shine that light? We must continue to support the birthright of all children to a healthy environment and a connection to the natural world, and to teach the responsibilities that come with that right.
We can work to reduce climate disruption and the biodiversity collapse by opposing policies that destroy people and the rest of nature, and by making the case that human beings protect what they love and love only what they know. More than ever, building a future generation of conservationists will depend on helping children and adults fall in love with the natural world.
We can emphasize the healing powers of the natural world: for mental and physical health; for the capacity to learn and create; and for the reduction of violence. We can promote family nature clubs, and similar approaches, as ways to seek meaning and solace in a difficult and alienating time. We can offer Vitamin N for the soul through places of worship. And we can encourage pediatricians, psychologists and other healthcare professionals to prescribe nature.
 Read Full Post.

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