|As if we need another gardening-related condition to worry about, a lack of time outdoors can lead to a loss of focus about the environment and ourselves. Fortunately, if you are reading this, you have that focus and that puts you in a position to reverse this troubling trend. Be great at that and you can change the world.
Richard Louv examines the serious issues of children, nature, and education in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. He writes that, “…baby boomers – Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – may constitute the last generation of Americans to share an intimate, familial attachment to the land and water.” Without those ties, the next generations will not see essential practices like habitat conservation as priorities and may not cultivate gardens, either.
The potential consequences can be profound, both on the individuals who are emotionally cut off from their environment, and the environment that will suffer from their neglect. Many of us retreat to the garden, or to the woods and trails, to bask in natural beauty, recharge our energies, and grow food and flowers. If Louv is right, and ample research says he is, who will care for the natural world? Where will the next generation find its respite? How can you be the change you want to see?
Start with something simple: walk your garden every day. Get outside and into Nature yourself to set an example and then go a bit farther. Make it a priority to visit anywhere with a walking trail – go weekly if you can and take someone with you – a friend, co-worker, children, spouse. Visit local gardens for inspiration and volunteer your time. Join the local nature center or conservation organization and work with school and community gardens. Make space in your home garden for the children to plant beans, corn, or nurture a tomato plant. When it’s science fair time, steer them toward earth science projects, and send them to nature camp in the summer.
Get personal: Make stepping stones that kids of any age (this includes you) can paint or press in handprints or footprints, then place those stones in your yard leading to a shady place where imagination is the only channel available. Call it a meditation garden or the thinking place, create a garden destination as near as the backyard and as far away as the mind wanders.
Reach out: Ask teachers to show you how they are using nature and environmental studies to teach lessons across the curriculum, then reinforce those lessons at home. Maybe it will lead to growing butterfly weed (Asclepias) to host Monarch butterflies and start a new and important family hobby. If you have woods on your property, share them. Invite the Girl Scouts to make a leaf collection and set up a feeding station for birds.
It’s up to all of us to act individually and as a community to stem the tide of nature-deficit disorder. Take action! Schedule time outdoors and make memories for yourself and those you love, whether it’s the first fern frond popping out of dark soil on a gray spring day or the biggest watermelon in town. Maybe you’ll see a spotted fawn and hear yourself gasp, or get a chuckle seeing toadshade and toadlilies as well as toads.
Nature-deficit disorder? Not with gardeners like you around!