By Kay Grismer
for The Foundation of FirstHealth
“If your kids are awake, they’re probably online.”
That’s what the Kaiser Family Foundation discovered. “Generation Plugged In” children are constantly tethered to media devices, spending almost all their waking hours online.
But they’re not alone.
American adults spend more than 11 hours a day watching TV, listening to the radio, or using smartphones or other electronic media. And that, according to Richard Louv, child advocacy expert, conservationist and award-winning author, has resulted in what he calls “nature-deficit disorder.”
“In my book, ‘Last Child in the Woods,’ I introduced the term ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ not as a medical diagnosis, but as a way to describe the growing gap between children and nature,” Louv says.
Since the publication of Louv’s book to wide acclaim in 2005, interest in “nature-deficit disorder” has increased beyond his wildest imaginings.
“I’ve been blown away by the response. I knew it would push a button, but not to this extent,” he says. “There’s quite plainly a very primal nature to this issue that touches people very deeply. I’ve heard many adults speak with heartfelt emotion, even anger, about this separation, but also about their own sense of loss.
“As we spend more of our lives looking at screens instead of streams, our senses narrow. The more time we spend in the virtual world, the less alive we feel—and the less energy we have for going outside.”
On Wednesday, May 20, at 5 p.m. in the Ballroom at the Country Club of North Carolina, Louv will present “Tapping into the Restorative Powers of Nature.” This is the third program in the “Health, Healing and the Humanities” series hosted by The Foundation of FirstHealth Clara McLean House Advisory Committee.
The lecture series, created by Nancy Kaeser, chair of the Advisory Committee, and Vivian Jacobson, noted Chagall historian and lecturer, was designed to promote the arts and humanities as “an avenue to healing.”
“The journey to health and healing can take many paths,” Kaeser says, “especially opportunities in the natural world at a time when we are all becoming immersed in high technology.”
In his most recent book, “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age,” Louv extends the idea of nature-deficit disorder to adults.
“Technology is not, in itself, the enemy,” he says, “but our lack of balance is lethal. In ‘Last Child in the Woods,’ I focused on why children need nature. In ‘The Nature Principle,’ I tell how the whole family—and whole communities—can become happier, healthier and smarter through more contact with the natural world.
“Young, old, or in between, we can reap extraordinary benefits by connecting—or reconnecting—to nature. For the jaded and weary among us, the outdoor world can expand our senses and reignite a sense of awe and wonder not felt since we were children.”
Louv believes that it’s time for aging boomers to take children for a walk.
“Our generation still remembers a time when it was considered normal for children to get their hands muddy and their feet wet, to lie in the grass and watch the clouds move,” he says. “There’s no better form of green exercise than passing along to the next generation the gifts of nature that we received.”
WANT TO GO?
Who: Richard Louv
What: Health, Healing and The Humanities Program: Tapping into the Restorative Powers of Nature
When: Wednesday, May 20, 5 p.m.
Where: Ballroom of the Country Club of North Carolina
There is no charge to attend this program, but reservations are requested and can be made by calling (910) 695-7510.