Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review: Last Child in the Woods (Book 71 of 100)

Last Child In The Woods is Richard Louv's new book on what he calls "nature deficit". When he was a kid he says children spent all their all time outdoors when they weren't in school or doing homework. Now kids spend countless hours watching screens be they computer, TV, or cellphone screens. This has created what he calls a "Denature". Kids are more likely to be familiar with Keanu Reeves matrix then they are in the mountains. As nature becomes more of an extraction than reality.

There are many causes for this change in childhood behavior. Parents are more aware of danger because there's kidnappings and the like . Laws are passed to restrict young people's access to nature, such as some communities where its illegal to erect basketball hoops, skateboard parks, or even to climb trees. Also youth themselves are into "gismology" that means needing to have the latest electronic gadgets.

The result of this situation are that many young people suffer from obesity and depression. Nature has been shown too help elevate those conditions. Many people with ADHD find nature to be a "calming tool". A lot of therapists say it benefits as an additional therapy along with or in place of medications or various conditions. For various other health conditions for which nature cannot sure it certainly has a positive affect. For example, mentally ill people have been shown to improve when allowed access to nature the same is true for cancer and other impairments requiring long hospital stays. With all these facts which I assume school boards know this, or they should, I find it shameful that only 7 states require certified P.E. teachers and 40% of boys and 70% of girls can't even complete one pull up.

However its not all bad there are programs that are engaging youth with nature. Our society is trying, in parts to blend both "Futuristic and Ancient" so children don't get short changed. A lot of faith groups are becoming involved in the mission to be better students of the earth. This is good news for both the faith community and the environmental organizations. One campaign I particularly appreciated, being a person of faith myself, was "What Would Jesus Drive?" Somehow I don't think it would be a Hummer. My version of Jesus drives a hybrid or rides a bike.

My two favorite moments in the whole book were, not surprisingly, both dealing with disability one is that studies have proven that access to nature is even more beneficial for people with disabilities (PWD) than it is for the community as a whole PWD are despite all stereo types about us "risk seeking" individuals I already knew that from my own life but it was nice to have it quantified. The second favorite moment of the book which is probably only a few paragraphs was the story of the authors friend who took children with AIDS camping. One little girl woke up his friend because she had to go to the bathroom when they exited the tent she just looked up and stared. The child had never seen the stars before! That moment always had me reaching for my hankie.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10. I don't have kids yet but when I do I'm going to make sure what even their ability status they experience actual life not just the virtual kind. Sure, they will have video games, computers, facebook, and email of course they will have access to assistive technology if they need it. I'm not going to become some crazy woman to lives in a yurt with no lights and no internet connection. The problem is when kids think electrical outlets are the only means to entertain yourself I say buy this book for all the parents and soon to be parents you know, its a great baby shower gift. The parents,and their soon to be child, will if they're smart- be grateful.

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