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Last Child in the Woods : Saving Our…

Last Child in the Woods : Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Richard Louv

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Title:Last Child in the Woods : Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Authors:Richard Louv
Info:Algonquin Books (2005), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:nature, children, philosophy

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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (2005)


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I'd heard of this book for years, and read/skimmed through it last week. It's OK, but most of it could have been covered in a substantial magazine article. ( )
  Amelia_Smith | May 2, 2015 |
The author is the recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal and the author of seven books. He is the chairman of the Children and Nature Network and honorary co-chair of the National Forum on Children and Nature. Louv has written for the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and other newspapers and magazines.

Robert Michael Pyle, author of Sky Time in Gray's River, said of this work, "[It] is the direct descendant and rightful legatee of Rachel Carson's The Sense of Wonder. But this is not the only thing Richard Louv has in common with Rachel Carson. There is also this: in my opinion, Last Child in the Woods is the most important book published since Silent Spring." First published in 2005, this edition has 35 discussion points for book groups, classrooms, and communities. Also included is new and updated research from the U. S. and abroad, plus a progress report from the author.The book has chapter notes, is well indexed and provides a list of 100 actions we can take to help work toward the goal of "leaving no child inside."
  uufnn | Mar 12, 2015 |
Louv discusses “nature deficit disorder” wherein our society has moved away from letting children just play and be outside. natural play has been criminalized through fear of being sued for a child breaking their arm by falling from a tree in your yard or on the school playground and fear of “strangers.” the distance kids are allowed to roam from their home has decreased dramatically in the last 20-30 years and hearkens to the free range child movement.

most kids no longer know what it means to just lie in a meadow and watch the clouds and listen to the wind. Louv recounts quite a few anecdotes from other people as well as his own about the value and joy of playing outside when they were young.

the concepts there were not new to me and the lack of numbered notation for references and index placed this book firmly in the land of journalism rather than scholarship. nevertheless, it makes its point well and is very much worth the read if you are interested in learning more about the diverging of humans and their natural environment and its effect on our childhood. ( )
  keebrook | Mar 10, 2015 |
I've been avoiding reading this book since it came out, so I suppose I can't blame the author for the fact that it feels dated. But nine years have not done the book any favors. The research portion is still interesting and relevant, but the look forward feels either grim (look at all those things that didn't happen!) or incomplete (this predated popular social media). [Now I realize there is an updated edition, but even that is from 2008.]

I also think this could have been strengthened by providing more concrete suggestions for change at a family or neighborhood level. Most of the "solutions" are at the public policy or building code level, which isn't really helpful. Overall I'm glad I read it; it definitely confirmed many of my life choices. ( )
  CherieDooryard | Jan 20, 2015 |
I'm reviewing an older book that I recently read that pertains to the disconnection between modern society and nature,

“Last Child in the Woods-Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv

I had been interested in this book for some time. Having read blog posts and articles by Richard Louv, and agreeing wholeheartedly that it is imperative that we get children outside and connected with nature, I was interested in his take on what I do believe is a profound disconnect.

This summer I found a copy at my free book “store.” It looked unread. I was giddy. The book thing is like random Christmas, to get something there that is actually on my book wish list, is rare.

I am someone who studies cognitive development, with emphasis in psychopathology (study of disorders not psychopaths), as well as someone with interest in how mental disorders and disability is portrayed in media. You can imagine I am leery of people making up random disorders based on what they dislike about society. They are a very real thing that people experience. They present very real challenges, in many cases are disabling and shouldn’t be made light of in this way.

That said, I wanted to give it a chance, as I believe significant differences of opinion aside, Louv and I are kindred spirits.

What did I find in this book? I found quite a bit of reminiscing, some interesting history on societal change, heartwarming anecdotes, and vague blaming of nearly all of society’s ills on lack of nature, and increased use technology. Some of it, was interesting. I found myself nodding along in agreement. The ideas for reconnecting people with nature are good ones.

Yet I cannot possibly recommend this book.

There is also ableism and ignorance.

One specific, most damning example being in the chapter: “Why the Young and The Rest of Us, Need Nature”

“The Rise of Cultural Autism
In the most nature deprived corners of our world we can se the rise of what might be called cultural autism. The symptoms? Tunneled Senses, and feelings of isolation and containment. Experience, including physical risk, is narrowing to about the size of a cathode ray tube, or flat panel if you prefer. Atrophy of the senses, was occurring long before we came to be isolated from the natural world…”

Phrases that stuck out were, “tunneled senses”, “isolation and containment,” “atrophy of the senses.”


My childhood was tough. There were two places I felt most free, going along with Sherlock and Watson on adventures (tucked safely in the public library) and out among the trees.

While walking the trails, watching the insects, chasing frogs, letting water run through my hands, I felt I was in paradise. I wandered and played for hours in the woods. Solitary? Yes. But I could feel the pulse of life there and knew I belonged to it. I think it’s a reason I’m still breathing. My senses were alive and FILLED. Not in the least atrophied. I’m still autistic.

That isn’t what is wrong with this paragraph though. I know many people are fond of a good analogy, a comparison of sorts. I am. However, writers must be responsible.

When you make such analogies, with real lived experiences of real people, you actually also encourage stereotype. If your cultural autism is atrophied, experience less, and isolated/contained (not a part of the world), then so are persons diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

This is how Louv sees us? The thought he wishes to convey? I cannot believe he has much direct experience with the spectrum.

It goes on though, because then he also, very slyly not really saying, but implying that “nature deficit disorder” is responsible at least in part for the attention difficulties of children. Mmm.hmmm.

I have ADD diagnosis as well. Nature makes me feel happier, at peace,and it eases my stress. It does not change how my mind works.

One of my three autistic sons also has an ADHD diagnosis. The boy does so much better handling stress when he has time to play outside. Guess what? When we come home from the park he’s still autistic. He still has attention, impulse, and learning retention problems. How about my other son, who barely speaks? The joy, the happiness being outside brings him, I cannot adequately describe with the written word.

It hasn’t improved his talking.

Just because studies show that spending time outside increases attention, it doesn't mean that the difficulties are a result of not spending time outside. Non causa pro causa. (and, converse problems or as we like to say round here "ass backwards") It is irresponsible to suggest it.

I know ADHD is an easy thing to bash and blame on modern life. I know too that autism is newsworthy, catchy thing that many people wish they understood the mechanism of.

However, it is irresponsible to hint around that all we need is more time outside, or that our home and school environment is creating these problems, especially when the person doing the hinting doesn’t appear to really understand either neurological condition. ( )
1 vote natureinthecity | Sep 30, 2014 |
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There was a child who went forth every day, And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became, And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, Or for many years or stretching cycles of years. The early lilacs became part of this child, And grass and red and white morning glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird, And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter, and the mare's foal, and the cow's calf,....
--Walt Whitman
I like to play indoors better 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are. --A fourth-grader in San Diego
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One evening, when my boys were younger, Matthew, then ten, looked at me from across a restaurant table and said quite seriously, Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 156512605X, Paperback)

"I like to play indoors better 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are," reports a fourth-grader. Never before in history have children been so plugged in—and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking new work, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation—he calls it nature deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and depression.

Some startling facts: By the 1990s the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. Today, average eight-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community. The rate at which doctors prescribe antidepressants to children has doubled in the last five years, and recent studies show that too much computer use spells trouble for the developing mind.

Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they're right in our own backyards. Last child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development—physical, emotional, and spiritual. What's more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and ADD. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Even creativity is stimulated by childhood experiences in nature.

Yet sending kids outside to play is increasingly difficult. Computers, television, and video games compete for their time, of course, but it's also our fears of traffic, strangers, even virus-carrying mosquitoes—fears the media exploit—that keep children indoors. Meanwhile, schools assign more and more homework, and there is less and less access to natural areas.

Parents have the power to ensure that their daughter or son will not be the "last child in the woods," and this book is the first step toward that nature-child reunion.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:37 -0400)

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Louv talks with parents, children, teachers, scientists, religious leaders, child-development researchers, and environmentalists to find ways for children to experience the natural world more deeply.

(summary from another edition)

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