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

by Richard Louv

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1,320325,899 (4.01)20
Member:bren
Title:Last Child in the Woods : Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Authors:Richard Louv
Info:Algonquin Books (2005), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:nature, children, philosophy

Work details

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

  1. 10
    Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy (sylvatica)
  2. 00
    Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence by George M Foy (Musecologist)
    Musecologist: Part of the issue with encountering the self in nature - and silence - is that there are fewer and fewer places for the ordinary person to do so.
  3. 00
    Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education (Nature Literacy Series, Vol. 1) (Nature Literacy) by David Sobel (sylvatica)
    sylvatica: Louv references Sobel a couple of times. Read the original!
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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.”

Seriously?

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. ( )
  natureinthecity | Sep 30, 2014 |
Okay, actually I read most of this book last year, but then it disappeared mysteriously -- until I finally discovered it behind the couch! It took a while to get back into the train of thought I'd left weeks (months?) ago, but I was very glad to finally finish it.

This was a life-changing book in many ways. It was one of those perfect books just two steps ahead of the reader's brain -- I was more than ready to agree with nearly everything contained within. And that covers a lot of ground! From research suggesting that exposure to nature is essential to a child's development to how sprawl and lawsuit-paranoid land-use policies have restricted this access to groups working to bring exposure to nature into the schools and into neighborhoods to play quality in "traditional" playgrounds vs natural areas to the effect of teaching environmentalism with an exclusively global focus while neglecting local flora & fauna and a sense of connection to place... It's exhaustive! But never exhausting. Each chapter spawned new ideas and grew new connections in my brain. The author made a deliberate effort to focus on causes for hope and suggestions for action, which I well appreciated.

I would recommend this book to anyone. Anyone with kids or who knows kids. Anyone interested in nature or the environment. Anyone interested in education. Anyone interested in changing the world and who dares to hope. ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
An interesting discussion flogged to to death. A book half as long would have been twice as persuasive. However, worth reading if you have an interest in biophilia (whether or not you've ever heard of the word...). ( )
1 vote nandadevi | May 3, 2014 |
Although this book has been around for years, I recently had the opportunity to listen to an audio version. It is a convincing and powerful book with a very focused message about children and the environment. What I found most interesting was the way Louv describes the positive consequences of outdoor play, nature education and creativity on both an individual and global scale (and the horror of the flip side). This continues to be an auspicious and pertinent message; a must-read for parents and educators. ( )
  St.CroixSue | Apr 4, 2014 |
Although this book has been around for years, I recently had the opportunity to listen to an audio version. It is a convincing and powerful book with a very focused message about children and the environment. What I found most interesting was the way Louv describes the positive consequences of outdoor play, nature education and creativity on both an individual and global scale (and the horror of the flip side). This continues to be an auspicious and pertinent message; a must-read for parents and educators. ( )
  StaffReads | Apr 4, 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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For Jason and Matthew
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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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