Walter Mencken 7 p.m., Dec. 10
Stop to smell the roses: A look at Nature-Defficit Disorder
Richard Louv, author of acclaimed books Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age, gave a talk at Balboa Park’s Museum of Man about the relationship between the progression of humanities reliance on technology and the ever increasing disassociation of experience with nature.
Louv argued that nature-deficit disorder, the idea that the lack of experiences within nature is detrimental to the mental and physical health of humans, is directly correlated to the fact that more people live in urban rather than rural communities and are simply not exposed to natural systems of biodiversity.
The topic of technology and its constrictive ability to overwhelm people was not a highlight of discussion, rather, Louv emphasized the conditions of our education and its effects on children. For example, Louv brought up the idea of executive functions, the cognitive processes that allow people to plan, memorize, pay attention, problem solve and all the other important neuro-complexities that we develop as we grow. He claims, based on empirical data, that these cognitive functions are impaired among children who are forced to spend eight hour school days with limited time for play and recreational exercise.
The issue between the education system and misdiagnoses of attention deficit- disorder, I believe, are not the only problems synonymous with the lack of human-nature connection. I have noticed an overwhelming trend of people that are so stuck in the day-to-day grind of work and financial struggle that they “forget” how to enjoy the natural local environments around them. Similarly, as some children grow up without the proper conceptual ability to play, adults forget how to take advantage of the therapeutic advantages of the natural world.
When I am on a hike, camping, or surfing, I become more in tune with the idiosyncrasies of cultures, people, and my surroundings. I am less stressed and spend my day enjoying life opposed to focusing on all the negativity that is overwhelmingly conspicuous thanks to fear mongering media outlets.
Of course, I am aware that everyone is different and not all people have the ability, means, or awareness to get up to ‘stop and smell the roses.‘ People find comfort and contentment in a myriad of ways.
Louv’s talk strengthened my bond with nature and all its therapeutic and aesthetic qualities as well as made me aware of the ever increasing need to help change the trajectory of human civilization. If more people are moving to urban cities, it is essential to implement accessible ways to experience nature directly. If more and more children are being diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder we need to look for alternative ways of education and exercise. Take some time to look at the adolescent years of the famous nature photographer, Ansel Adams, for example. He was diagnosed with the wiggles as a child and all it took was clever parents to realize that he was noticeably balanced in nature rather than a constricting four-walled class room. There is a great urgency to the idea of nature-deficit disorder and the science behind nature as a therapeutic practice.