Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

ON PEOPLE & NATURE

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THE MORALITY OF DOGS

For years, I have secretly believed that the dog I grew up with was something of a moral teacher in our family. Admitting this belief, I invite all sorts of critiques from those who, for religious or scientific reasons, object to attributing humanlike behavior to nonhuman animals. So be it. I'll bet you had such a special friend, too.

Not long ago, I asked an animal behavioralist if dogs can be moral teachers to children. (I suppose they can be moral teachers to adults, too, but children and dogs, like Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey, can be especially attuned.) This particular animal behaviorist also earned a doctorate in the psychology of human behavior, and he is an expert on pet therapy for children.

Pets, he said, are often moral teachers, though that is not their intent. For example, pets teach children about death. "The death of a dog or cat can be the single most profound loss a human being can experience. Some people don't want to accept the fact that an animal can mean as much, or more, to a human being as another member of the family. But it can. Children learn about dying; they can afford this price more than they can the loss of a parent."

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SEVEN REASONS FOR A NEW NATURE MOVEMENT

Martin Luther King Jr. taught us, by word and example, that any movement — any culture —will fail if it cannot paint a picture of a world that people will want to go to. As others have said, his speech was not called “I Have a Nightmare.”

For decades, our culture has struggled with two addictions, to oil and to despair. It’s pretty clear by now that we can’t kick one of those habits without kicking the other. Yet, for many Americans, perhaps most of us, thinking about the future conjures up images of “Blade Runner,” “Mad Max” or Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”: a post-apocalyptic dystopia stripped of nature. We seem drawn to that flame.

It’s a dangerous fixation. Think how children and young people must feel today, growing up in a time when so many adults seem to accept, with a shrug, only darkness ahead. The key question here is: How do we change our vision of the future? Where do we start? Here’s one suggestion: reconceive environmentalism and sustainability – help them evolve into a larger movement that can touch every part of society. 

Here are seven reasons for a New Nature Movement.

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GETTING NATURE SMART: How to Build Your Brain

One day after a talk in Seattle, a woman literally grabbed my lapels and said, "Listen to me: adults have nature-deficit disorder, too." She was right, of course. As a species, we are most animated when our days and nights are touched by the natural world. While individuals can find immeasurable joy in a great work of art, or by falling in love, all of life is rooted in nature, and a separation from it desensitizes and diminishes us. That truth seems obvious to some of us, though it has yet to take root in the wider culture.

However, in recent years an emerging body of research has begun to describe the restorative power of time spent in the natural world. Even in small doses, we are learning, exposure to nature can measurably improve our psychological and physical health. While the study of the relationship between mental acuity, creativity, and time spent outdoors is still a frontier for science, new data suggests that exposure to the living world can even enhance intelligence.

At least two factors are involved: first, our senses and sensibilities can be improved by spending time in nature; second, the natural environment seems to stimulate our ability to pay attention, think clearly, and be more creative....

Read more of this excerpt from THE NATURE PRINCIPLE in the Outside Magazine excerpt. Read Full Post.

Place Blindness: Searching for Authenticity and Identity

You can’t know who you are until you know where you are.
—Wendell Berry

 

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y wife, Kathy, was raised in San Diego. I moved here from Kansas in 1971, just out of college. She had spent little time exploring the natural habitats of this region, and I viewed it as a resort city, beautiful in its way, but I missed the green woods and plains of the Midwest. So when I looked for nature here, I saw less than met the eye.

For years, we were restless. We bored our friends with all our talk of moving, of finding our one true place. We even bored ourselves. One day Kathy said, “Our tombstones are going to say, ‘We’re moving.’”

Today, I feel differently. I may never bond to this region as I did to the woods behind my boyhood home, and who knows, we may yet move. But I no longer have quite the same reaction when people ask me where I am from.  Read Full Post.

The Nature Principle in your neighborhood: Is there a Button Park in your future?

Remember the special place in nature that you had as a child—that wooded lot at the end of the cul de sac, that ravine behind your housing tract? What if adults had cared just as much about that special place as you did, when you were a child? Here’s an idea (described in my new book, THE NATURE PRINCIPLE), whose time may be coming: the creation of "nearby-nature trusts.” Land trust organizations could develop and distribute tool kits, and perhaps offer consulting services, to show how neighborhood residents could band together to protect those small green parcels of nearby nature. What might these little parcels be called? How about ” button parks?” Read Full Post.

The Reality of Nature
in Difficult Times

For the past couple of days, my younger son and I have been trying to cure our nature-deficit disorder. Right now, I’m sitting in bed in a Bishop, California motel that, well, isn’t the Ritz. Matthew, who is 23, is still asleep, and deeply. A few hours ago we staggered across the clumped grass and mud along the Owens River, struggled to keep our balance as 40 mph gusts tangled our fly lines. We froze and sweated in the sleet as the snow line crept lower on the Sierra. Fishing was terrible, we were miserably cold, and perfectly happy. Read Full Post.

How Libraries Can Connect Children and Adults to Nature, and Build Support for Libraries

Can libraries connect children to nature? You bet. “Today, via a library’s outdoor learning space, librarians are participating in the growing movement to connect children with the environment,” write Tracy Delgado-LaStella and Sandra Feinberg in this month’s issue of American Libraries magazine. The excellent piece describes the efforts of Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, New York, which has created The Nature Explorium.

girl reading

In collaboration with the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids (LINCK), the library converted an adjacent 5000-square foot area into a outdoor learning environment, “including a climbing/crawling area, messy materials area, building area, nature art area, music and performance area, planting area, gathering/conversation place, reading area, and water feature.” Read Full Post.

Grow Outside! Keynote Address to the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference

Adapted excerpts from Richard Louv's plenary keynote address to the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference, Oct. 2, 2010 in San Francisco. On Oct. 1, Louv made similar remarks at the UCSF Conference, Children First: Promoting Ecological Health for the Whole Child.

More than three decades ago, when Dr. Mary Brown’s children were growing up in Bend, Oregon (she describes it as a city at the base of the Cascade Mountains with a world class fly-fishing river running through it and where the sun shines over 300 days a year), it never occurred to her that much of her practice as a pediatrician would one day be so focused on childhood obesity and depression. Read Full Post.

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