Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

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

Blog Posts: 2012

New International Attention to the Forgotten Human Right

When Annelies Henstra, a Dutch human rights attorney, talks about the right of children to a meaningful connection to the natural world, she calls it the “forgotten human right.” Now, at least for some, it is remembered.

In September, the World Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meeting in Jeju, South Korea, passed a resolution declaring that children have a human right to experience the natural world. Henstra, and Cheryl Charles, who is president of the Children & Nature Network, and others made the case to the Congress—attended by more than 10,000 people representing the governments of 150 nations and more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations.

The resolution, “the Child’s Right to Connect with Nature and to a Healthy Environment” calls on IUCN’s membership to promote the inclusion of this right within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The resolution recognizes “concern about the increasing disconnection of people and especially children from nature, and the adverse consequences for both healthy child development (‘nature deficit disorder’) as well as responsible stewardship for nature and the environment in the future.” And it recognizes that:

“...children, since they are an inalienable part of nature, not only have the right to a healthy environment, but also to a connection with nature and to the gifts of nature for their physical and psychological health and ability to learn and create, and that until they have these rights they will not bear responsibility for nature and the environment…”

This is an important moment for anyone concerned about the future relationship between humans and the rest of nature.

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Advice from the Late Great Ray Bradbury: Be an "Optimalist"

Ray Bradbury died on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, at the age of 91. In 2001, I had the pleasure of interviewing him. To many in my generation he was a hero and a truth-teller, as he saw the truth. Here’s to Ray.


So you don’t like to be thought of as a science-fiction writer, said the reporter to the great writer.

"No," said Ray Bradbury, who called back after the fax had rolled in. The fax machine is one of his only concessions to post-modern technology. "Have you noticed that we have all these machines but no one calls anymore?" he added.

Well, it’s true, said the reporter, thinking of something his 19-year-old son had told him.

The "post-information" society, that’s what his son and some of his intellectual friends call today’s emerging culture. By post-information they mean: We’ve reached a stage in history, an evolutionary leaping-off point, when we’re overwhelmed by so much information that information doesn’t mean anything anymore—and the only real meaning is found in the direct communication between two people.

"That’s right," said Bradbury, approvingly. "You pick and choose. Use what you want."

This was high praise for an idea, coming from the dean—the master—of dark, nostalgic futurism. The author of such classic works as "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "The Martian Chronicles," "I Sing the Body Electric" and "The Illustrated Man," he is neither pessimist nor optimist.

Bradbury prefers the word "optimalist."

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The Treasure Chest

The old chest of drawers proved to be a treasure chest. It was a small piece of furniture, perhaps an old washstand, with three drawers. It sat in a storage unit for over a year, and when we bought a house with a garage, we moved it there, along with stacks of boxes filled with the remains of my mother’s life. As everyone must do someday, my wife and I sorted out the heirlooms. But for the longest time I could not bear to disturb the chest, as if it slept.

This chest had held my mother’s art supplies. She made her living as a greeting card artist. She began working in Kansas City, at age 16, for Hallmark Cards and over the years became known as one of the best free-lance greeting card artists.

I grew up watching her work. I would stand next to her art table and watch her hand move the brush expertly across the paper and then move to the right, to the chest, where she would dip it into blotches of paint or stir the brush loudly in an old fruit jar of water.

The paints and an airbrush and her heavy tape dispenser and her scissors were kept there. From time to time, the tape or the scissors would disappear, and she would call out irritated to her two boys to bring them back. But she never banned us from her desk. The squares of blotter paper she cut out were just right for our drawings, and our drawings littered the floor below the table.

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The Sirens of Technology: Seven Ways Our Gadgets Drive Us Nuts

I love nature. I like high-tech. There, I’ve said it.

In 1982, I bought an IBM Displaywriter — a “word processor” as we called the first post-Selectric writing machines. The Displaywriter was the approximate size of a Chevy Vega and sounded like a garbage truck. As the years passed, I stayed on the leading edge of communications technology.

Now that I own three computers, a Kindle, an iPhone and an iPad, I just may have gone over the edge.

Understand, I recognize the benefits of technology, otherwise I wouldn’t be using the Internet or refrigerating my food. And the Internet has certainly been essential for building the children and nature movement.

But consider a few recent findings, reported here in the Twitter tradition of 140 characters, more or less:

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Every Child Needs Nature, Not Just The Ones With Parents Who Appreciate Nature

Every child needs nature. Not just the ones with parents who appreciate nature. Not only those of a certain economic class or culture or gender or sexual identity or set of abilities. Every child.

If a child never sees the stars, never has meaningful encounters with other species, never experiences the richness of nature, what happens to that child?

In economically challenged neighborhoods, towns and rural areas, the impact of toxic dumps is well known. The evidence makes it clear that when we poison nature, we poison ourselves. But there’s a second, related threat that is less familiar.

What do we know about how human beings, particularly children and their families in poor communities, are affected by the absence of nature’s intrinsic benefits? Research suggests that exposure to the natural world – including nearby nature in cities – helps improve human health, well-being, and intellectual capacity in ways that science is only recently beginning to understand.

People need nature for healthy development. We know that. What we don’t know enough about is the natural capacity of different ethnic or economic communities.

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The Age of Emptiness or the Coming Creativity?

One day, while driving down a freeway, I looked up to see an empty sky where there had been mountaintops.

Dust was rising as massive earth graders rumbled across a now-blank plain. Seemingly overnight, they had sliced away the horizon. Later came rows of mini-mansions devoid of color or individuality or visual meaning, and shopping malls, one after another after another after another, with the same anchor stores, the same stucco, the same cars, the same dreamlessness.

Perhaps you’ve shared this feeling – this solastalgia, as Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht calls it: a form of human psychic distress caused by the loss of nature.

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You're Part of the New Nature Movement if…

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And Now a Few Words About the Children & Nature Network

After “Last Child in the Woods” was published, a handful of like-minded individuals came together to form the Children & Nature Network. Our mission was simple: to help build a movement to reconnect children and their families to nature—for their physical health, cognitive development and emotional well-being, and for the good of our communities and the planet. Many groups have been committed to this issue for decades. But we believed that a new network of people and organizations could accelerate efforts to connect children and adults to the natural world.

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The Forgotten Human Right

Do children – do all of us – have a right to meaningful connection to the natural world? Annelies Henstra, a Dutch human rights attorney, thinks so. She calls it the “forgotten human right.”

In the March 2009 issue of Orion Magazine, and then in a more detailed chapter in “The Nature Principle,” I sketched out a case for that right; not as legal argument, but as moral stance. And I emphasized that this birthright is accompanied by a responsibility to protect and care for the natural world.

That idea had already begun to take root as part of the children and nature movement. In 2007, California adopted the first statewide children’s outdoor bill of rights, followed by similar symbolic statements in other states, including Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Kansas, and most recently Wisconsin. Cities and regions around the country have embraced similar declarations.

Now the concept is spreading internationally.

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