Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

From the Blog

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.

• The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need. Even as biodiversity and traditional connections to nature fade, an almost religious faith in technology suggests that, well, we don’t need nature much anymore. We hear talk of a “post-biological” era in which human beings are optimally enhanced by technology. Yet, we’ve only begun to study how the natural world can optimize human health and intelligence. Technology will always be with us, but as it grows, we’ll need an antidote to its downside.

• As of 2008, more than half of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. If human beings are to enjoy nature, they’ll likely have to do it in urban areas. This transformation will produce one of two outcomes: either the end of meaningful daily experience in nature, or the beginning of a new kind of city – and a new view of our role in and our definition of nature.

• Adults have nature-deficit disorder, too. In recent years, the children and nature movement has revealed a vein of hope. That effort has brought people together across party lines and religious and economic divisions. But the children and nature movement will not succeed unless adults come to see the importance of our own connection to the natural world.

• Environmentalism needs to hit reset. The environmental movement’s many successes did not prepare us for even larger global challenges, including climate change and the human disconnection from the natural world. Poll after poll now shows that environmental concern, in some areas, has dropped to its lowest point since before Earth Day 1970.  Why? Economic recession. A well-financed campaign of disinformation. An inability to describe a great future. For whatever reason, environmentalism remains a pup tent. We need a bigger tent. In fact, we need a river.

• Sustainability alone is not sustainable. Though we don’t have a better word to replace it, the word sustain suggests stasis. Fairly or not, much of the public views energy conservation and the development of alternative energy sources as essential but ultimately technical goals. We need more than stasis; we need to produce human energy (health, intelligence, creativity, joy) through nature.

• Conservation is not enough. Now we need to “create” nature. Even if we conserve every square foot of remaining wilderness, and we should, it won’t be enough to guarantee the biodiverse habitats that humans and other organisms will require to thrive. In addition to conservation, we must now restore or create natural habitats on our farms and ranches, in our cities, neighborhoods, commercial buildings, yards, and on our roofs. We'll need the true greening of America and the rest of the world.

• We have a choice. If we see only an apocalyptic future, that’s what we’ll get, or close to it. But imagine a society in which our lives become as immersed in nature as they are in technology, every day, where we live, work, learn and play. Imagine a future in which our intelligence and creativity, our ability to feel and be fully alive is enhanced by more frequent contact with the natural world.

We’re already seeing a convergence of a New Nature Movement focused on human restoration through the natural world. A new river is gathering force. At its headwaters, an expanding body of scientific evidence links the human experience in the natural world to better physical and mental health and enhanced cognitive abilities.

Now comes a cascade of hope: biophilic design of new homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, cities; reconciliation ecology and human-nature social capital; restorative homes and businesses; ecopsychology and other forms of nature therapy; pediatricians who prescribe nature; citizen naturalists; nature-based schools; the Slow Food and simplicity movements; organic gardening; urban agriculture, vanguard ranching and other forms of the new agrarianism; the children and nature movement; and more.

As these currents join, they’ll lead us to a different view of the future. It won’t look perfect, but it’ll surely be better.

In fact, precisely because of the environmental challenges we face, the future will belong to the nature-smart — those individuals, families, businesses and political and social leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world, and who balance the virtual with the real. That’s a picture worth painting, a future worth creating.

But first, we have to imagine it.
 


This essay is adapted from THE NATURE PRINCIPLE: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2011). Richard Louv is also the author of LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. He is Chairman Emeritus of The Children and Nature Network, where the essay also appears.

More: “A new nature movement imagines a future more like Boise than ‘Blade Runner’”-- Idaho Statesman, June 19.  Also: "Nature Smart: How do we learn to be 21st Century land protection campaigners" -- The Wilderness Society, July 10.

Next post: The Morality of Dogs

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Comments

Rich - The most concise wording of the most important priorities.  You are way ahead of most of us on this, and we need to catch up with you and help everyone else do the same.  We’ll get this up on the ecoAmerica and ecoSalon blogs…

Rich is again revealing a truth and a solvable problem. My son has a t-shirt that says, “Internet was down so thought I’d come outside today.” It’s supposed to be a joke. We have a choice and we need to keep reminding ourselves lest we forget to go outside.

Rich – The call to “create nature” is so important and directly relevant to landscape architects. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) should take the lead on this one. The message is equally relevant to the suburban mown lawn monoculture owners – dig up, diversify with flowering plants and push the kids out for nature play!

Rich,

Thank you once again for stepping outside the box and engaging us as a family, a community and a nation to reset our country’s agenda to save our most precious commodity - our natural resources.

A Old Friend, Nancy

Rich,

These words are golden. I admire your ability to take the most important crisis looming in our future and infuse it with hope—not that naïve hope of Dr. Pangloss, but hope with the sleeves rolled up; there’s work to be done. We soldiers in the trenches will do well to take up your challenge to revolutionize not just how we behave, but also how we think and feel. To do this, to remain hopeful in the face of so many challenges, we must constantly remind ourselves of the need to keep it positive. Thanks for that reminder today.

Richard, This is your Frat bro from KU, wow, what a strange experience the last 40 years have been. I am on twitter as akaJerryGarcia, and you have my Facebook connection. I remember reading your column in the Hutch News, and rediscovering you in the San Diego paper in the early 90’s. The concept of a small world is certainly full of evidence for us.

Rich—Thanks for taking the lead on such important issues!  You crystallize a powerful vision.  You speak it beautifully.  It’s appreciated by so many of us.

Great talking points for a new nature movement! If you want to discuss any pieces of this platform, Orion magazine is hosting a live web event on June 16 with Mr Louv and friends on reconnecting with nature.

All are welcome, more info and registration here:

http://bit.ly/LouvSobel

Dear Mr. Louv,

I highly recommend Jan Nickman’s films, “Echoes of Creation” and “Sacred Earth” for you or anyone who wishes to experience nature’s power to heal and transform our world.  They are 40 minute journeys through the exquisite beauty of nature, airing nationwide on public television. No doom and gloom, no endless chatter…. just a deeply moving and soul-stirring experience WITH nature.  I hope you and your readers will support these films (and public television) as they give people an opportunity to FEEL and SEE the “New Nature Movement” you speak of here.  Many thanks for your brilliant work.  We are truly grateful.

Just started the book today and am getting acquainted with the site and the blog. It seems to me the problems are that to foster change the only arguments seen as legitimate by the larger society are money. Short term money at that, nothing that would think past a year.
The only other argument is on of self interest, and there you fall into the “its good for you” trap. Even if it is good for you, how many of us like literature, or exercise or eating well once it’s foisted on us by an outside agency. It’s a conundrum.

FINALLY!!!!!!!!  Documented scientific proof that I am not the crazy one =) Having just seen your appearance on Marilyn Denis Show in Toronto, I am off to the nearest bookstore to purchase both books noted on your website - not only for myself, but for my 14yr old son, my 13yr old identical twin sons, and for my 11yr old daughter, as proof that I have not intentionally been trying to punish them all these years by putting nature first in our simple but serene lives.  I am the single mum who drags my children 2hrs to Point Pelee Nat’l Park for a day trip, use my limited budget to buy seasonal day use passes at every conservation area between Toronto & Windsor that I can find.  I force my kids to swim in reservoirs & lakes & streams if need be, by eliminating their access to backyard swimming pools.  They have grown up with as much exposure as I can give them, to the chagrine of family & friends who prefer to down beers in their backyard in a cloud of smoke, thinking that pet ownership is their connection to nature, or that a stroll around a concrete block is the same as a 3-5km nature hike. This is critical exciting information for me to discover.  I am not a teacher or a nurse or a scientist, but I am expected to be, as a mother of 4, with my daughter pegged as special needs (Down syndrome) and my twins as high needs (a.d.h.d. & who knows what!).  I only know, that when the walls dissolve and we step into the cathedral of nature, we are our best selves.  Cheers to your tireless research into restoring ourselves & encouraging us as families & communities, in common unity, to being fully alive!!  I applaud you here alone in my home, with a standing ovation!  Please come back to Ontario again soon!!

Sincerely,  Francine the nature nymph xox

Hi again!  Having devoured half of Last Child In The Woods already, in one day, I my thirst continues to grow.  With The Nature Principle looming on my bookstand, I cannot help but reflect on the words of Walt Whitman in his Song Of The Open Road… “now i see the secret of the making of the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth”.  My mind is in union with this 19th century poet, and how acute his perception was of the world around him.  Oh the detail he describes - rather than it being crippling, it is inspiring.  In nature, the more you notice, the more you love it, and become fierce about its protection, as vulnerable as a child, yet as resilient as ever.

The more I read, the more I crave.  The more I research, the more I see how much work there is yet to do.  Thank you to R.S. noted above, in his comment, succinct words of poetry - hope with sleeves rolled up.  Cheers to the years of toil ahead,  but it will be as enjoyable as trying to run up a waterfall =)  not easy, but imperative!  Heavy emphasis on IMP - service with a smile!

Sincere-lee, Francine (waving her flag in Canada)

I am honored to be one of the soldiers in the trenches, as Ron Swaisgood commented.  I echo his thoughts, so well articulated, especially “there is work to be done.”  Rich continues to inspire and educate us like no other, painting a beautiful picture of what can be, and offering hope that we can get there.  Now it is our job to translate that inspiration and hope into action.  As former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said to the American Congress after 9/11, “There is probably someone in Idaho who is asking ‘why me, why us, why America?’ It is because history has put you at this place in this time, and it is your job to do.”  For those of us in the trenches, we need all the help we can get.

Hi Richard, how do we change our vision of the future? is a great question. Here in Totnes, England we are addressing this through the Transition Town Totnes initiative. How do we manage this rocky road at the end of oil and escalating climate change? Future-casting is used here to envision where we want to be in 20 years time, then we look at how to get there on a day to day, year to year basis. We’ve produced a book of our vision- The Energy Descent Action Plan.
So this Transition thing has grown into a world wide network which tries to address the challenges and opportunities of many facets of our lives.
If you don’t know of it, have a look at http://www.transitionnetwork.org
Best wishes, Mike.

Thank you again Rich, Your words call each of us, to reach within ourselves and accept our own personal responsibility for life and embrace the essence of nature with every breath, moving us forward into a better world. That can only start with the one in the mirror.

Every person you touch with your literary wisdom and grace, produces the possibility for change, to a conscious awakening of a more natural way to live and prosper. Please continue to provide us with the evidence, reminders and inspiration to become united in our quest to understand and be involved in our natural world, for all to… IN-JOY!

thank you for your post, as a regular reader I have found your blog very informative, keep up the good work
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This is really an wonderful and needful blog. I have got plenty of information from here.

I am impressed by the quality of information on this website. There are a lot of good resources here. I am sure I will visit this place again soon.

Great article! There is a revolution underway called Outdoor Nation! Check it out here: http://www.outdoornation.org One of the challenges before us is to bring people who don’t have the nature connection outside so it sparks, then they too can take others outdoors-get that river you mentioned flowing.

Hey Richard, great article! I think these are all very valid points FOR a nature movement but I think you missed out some areas where humans have started to neglect such as sleeping habits. For human restoration, there is nothing more natural than sleeping so this is definitely a big factor.

I do recommend you check out this blog on Sleeping Habits which tells you just how important good sleep hygiene is

check out your backyard farmers. these two women have started a gardening/farming revolution. they put come to our home and others once a week and farm it. they do everything it takes. great for working and older people. its affordable. its organic. they have enough back yards that together they equal the amount of land needed for farm status.. hence tax breaks and affordability. they exhibit the type of thinking we need to keep what nature we can urban.
http://www.yourbackyardfarmer.com/

Everything that exists lives. Same spirit, different bodies. The hippies were right.
Thanks for your work. I’ll try to get your books.

Excellent,

But “Nature” is not enough.

Our society needs to move into a new form of metaphysical thought.

I am convinced this will only come out of a revolution in religious thought. Humanity needs quickly to acknowledge the metaphysical energy/material/non material breakthrough—as Jesus did in the Thomas Gospel, and many scientists today. But first we must break down the beliefs that are holding us back.

We need to understand this inalterable fact of evolution; any species that defies nature—as the human species is now doing, will in time die out, taking into oblivion with it whatever values it may have had. Christians should take note; that includes their own.

Jesus had prescient words. Quoting from the Gospel of Thomas:
(41) Whoever has something in his hand will receive more, and whoever has nothing will be deprived of even the little that he has.

In 1970 Charles Reich’s “The Greening of America” was published. It affected many people, including myself, deeply. It deserves to be read in our present time for the wisdom it holds.

Charles Reich was a law professor at Yale University Law School in 1970. His articles have a[[eared in the Yale Review, The Public Interest, The New Republic, The nation, the Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, and other popular and scholarly journals.

If you have never come across this book you will be surprised by Reich’s steadfast belief in the possibility of a new flowering of the human spirit in America! Check it out!!

The humanity thrives when bolstered by a guiding mythos. We need a mythos that will help us return to nature, and, as Rich encourages here, help us create it.

Bron Taylor’s 2010 book, Dark Green Religion, describes one such mythos as a growing, secular form of biophilic spirituality. 

Such a worldview, based on evolutionary science, may help us achieve the environmental imaginary that Rich Louv encourages here.

thank you for your post, as a regular reader I have found your blog very informative, keep up the good work. http://www.southlondon-roofing.co.uk

As we become greedy we are putting ourselves on great risk. Nature is no longer balance and catastrophes are in site. We need to take of our natural resources and bring back the balance.

I always like reading your books and your blog. I have read this post about the 7 reasons for a new nature movement. All those seven point are really important and that proves we are in a need of new nature movement. It’s a great point that as we become more hi-tech the need for more nature too increases. The conversation on conservation of nature is always here. But what we lack is action. We have to create nature, and also preserve them for the future, we can make changes like going for the best energy savings products and services. Any idea where Airco Mechanical is?  For that we all have to work together, planting trees, saving earth water and nature.

I always like reading your books and your blog. I have read this post about the 7 reasons for a new nature movement. All those seven point are really important and that proves we are in a need of new nature movement. It’s a great point that as we become more hi-tech the need for more nature too increases. The conversation on conservation of nature is always here. But what we lack is action. We have to create nature. For that we all have to work together, planting trees, saving earth water and nature.

If we cannot go hand in hand with progress and taking care of our environment, sooner or later all will be lost. As one cannot exist without the other, we must always consciously take in to consideration the world we live in.

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Thanks for this great information that you are sharing with us!!!

Nature has always been a beautiful subject and it’s just right for us to save it.

great post. I am a regular reader keep up the good work. http://www.irongatesnrailings.co.uk

How do we change our vision of the future? Every individual will have their own ideas, thanks for the post.

There is hope still, instead of saying “I have a nightmare” we should all mobilize and do something to change the world in a positive way so oneday we could say again “I have a dream”.

Thank you – I love reading your work. It is heartening to know that, despite the political and social differences on environmental issues that may keep countries distant from each other, there are individuals all around the world that share these new attitudes to Nature which will, in time, bring us all together.

it is very true no matter how much growth we do technologically, we still need our nature. I think nothing can replace the nature. It ultimately controls everything.

A lot of the older generation do seem to accept that the world is headed for a bad place, but then, it’s our job as the newer generation to avoid that future, and make it a better one.

I am so thankful I didn’t grow up in the city. I really enjoyed my childhood in the province surrounded by nature. I now live in the city with my own family and I am thankful because the place we live in has a park nearby with trees where my boys can play.

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Good post, thank you.

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