Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

ON PEOPLE & NATURE

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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.

WATCHING A PRESIDENT

 

 

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

D

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.

 Read Full Post.

THE NEW NATURE MOVEMENT, POST 11/8

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

O

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.

RETURN TO AMERICA II

Thinking about president-elect Donald Trump, and the mystery of his rise, I pulled a copy of my first book, “America II,” from a bookshelf. The book was published more than three decades ago. It was based on months of travel around the United States. To research it, I followed Americans to where the U.S. Census said they were moving, and asked them if they had found what they were looking for.

 Although the book has long been out of print, a few reviewers have rediscovered it, and what they wrote reminded me of its basic themes. This morning I flipped through it, wondering if I had overreached. My conclusion: Not on most counts, unfortunately.

The following excerpt is from the introduction of “America II," first published in 1983:

The America we know is dying, but a second America is rising from the body of the first. This second nation – America II – can best be seen in the South and West, but it exists, in varying degrees, in every state of the Union. It has a physical form: a very different kind of city; a radically changed rural and small-town life; a revolution in shelter; a new workplace. But the second America is also a state of mind: a powerful yearning for opportunity, for old values and new technologies, for refuge and escape.

This book is an exploration of what it’s like to live in America II, or on the outskirts of it. It’s about the people left behind, but mostly it’s about the people who are moving, about condo dwellers and pot farmers, corporate utopians and private police, rural entrepreneurs and urban escapees, computer programmers and unemployed wanderers. It’s about people trying to get control in an economic and social environment that seems out of control. It’s about the search for home, the creation of new nests from the sticks and mud of our fantasies of what home should be. This book is about the unintended consequences of that search. Read Full Post.

AN INVITATION TO TAKE THE VITAMIN N CHALLENGE

Share with others how you connect your family and community to nature. Pick one or more of 500 actions from Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, try them out for a day, a week or a month — and tell your friends and the world about your experience. Please use hashtag #VitaminN — or send an email to vitaminN@chiildrenandnature.org.

Today, parents, grandparents, pediatricians, teachers and others are looking for ways to connect children to the natural world. This summer, to bring together that motivation with ideas from the community, the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is launching the #VitaminN Challenge. The challenge is an opportunity to get more nature into our lives and to share ideas. C&NN co-founder Richard Louv’s new book, Vitamin N, presents over 500 nature-oriented actions for families, organizations and communities. In addition, C&NN’s online resources and a list of similar books, blogs and nature-focused websites offer a wide range of ideas that will help you take the Vitamin N Challenge. But, most importantly, C&NN is looking to YOU for ideas for getting more #VitaminNHere's how to participate: Read Full Post.

VITAMIN N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, by Richard Louv — National book launch San Diego April 19

C&NN press release by Jackie Green

On April 12, Algonquin Books published Louv's ninth book, a much-anticipated companion to Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle.

VITAMIN N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life
500 Ways to Enrich the Health and Happiness of Your Family & Community

Featured recently on CBS This Morning and NPR's Diane Rehm ShowVitamin N is a comprehensive and practical guidebook for the whole family and the wider community. It includes actions for parents eager to share nature with their kids, and also for grandparents, teenagers, teachers, health care professionals, mayors and anyone else who wants to create a nature-rich life. "Issuing an imperative that everyone should heed, this important new book provides the tools to reclaim the wonders and health benefits of nature." —Publishers Weekly, starred review. Here's a sampling of what families and communities can do:Vitamin N 3D Cover Read Full Post.

THE SCHOOL OF NATURE: Greening Our Schools May Be The Real Cutting Edge of Education

First published by the Children & Nature Network.

Outside Atlanta, after returning from a class hike through the woods, an excited six-year-old grabbed his head and said, “There’s so much nature and I only have two eyes and one brain and I think it's going to explode!” 

A teacher at the nature-based Chattahoochee Hills Charter School shared that story about her student with me a couple weeks ago. Telling it, she seemed just about as excited as the six-year-old, though she did not grab her head.

We were watching a CBS This Morning television crew roam the grounds. They were working on a piece about schools that emphasize the natural world as a learning environment (barring a Trumpian implosion or other massive world event, the segment will run on April 8th, sometime after 8 a.m. Eastern time). Here's what they saw: a series of classrooms, each in its own building; the front of every classroom is glass to let in natural light, and teachers can open that side of the room to the elements. Surrounding the school is a forest laced with walking trails. From deep in those woods came the sounds of young laughter, running feet and learning.

At Chattahoochee Hills Charter School, students spend about a third of their time learning in the outdoors.

 Read Full Post.

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