Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv

Staff Review, by Chris Saliba

In this gentle, reflective and often meditative book, Richard Louv makes a case for getting children, and by extension, adults, back to nature. He argues that it will improve our health, relationships and spiritual wellbeing.

The premise of this book seems so screamingly obvious that it’s perhaps a testament to the times that someone had to go out and write it: children are now moving more and more away from playing in nature to staying indoors. Rather than observing the natural world and discovering frogs, trees and generally poking around in the dirt, children are choosing their electronic gadgets instead. In part, parents are to blame for this shift, as they worry about the safety of their children, but another big part of the equation is the sheer power of the cultural shift in recent decades. Louv has coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’ to explain this condition.

There isn’t much hard science in this book to back up Louv’s argument, but more common sense. The research into the benefits on being in nature is in its infancy, but some of the examples that are used in the book are still quite striking. For example, it has been shown that patients sitting in a hospital room with a natural view will recover quicker than those looking at a non-natural view.  Early research has also shown that children suffering attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do better when they are let loose in a natural environment.

In tone, the book is a bit of a cross between Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Thoreau’s Walden, with a bit of Wordsworth thrown in. It’s really a meditation on the benefits of nature for children, and by extension adults. Louv’s writing is frequently autobiographical, as he talks about his own experiences raising his two boys and has a gentle, reflective quality.

The book is perhaps best enjoyed for these meditative reasons. Richard Louv's quiet pace makes you reflect and think upon your own experiences. It did for me, anyway. There’s also a generous section at the end with 100 ideas to get you, your family and community back to nature.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv. Published by Allen and Unwin. ISBN: 9781848879447  RRP: $24.99

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