Thursday, March 15, 2012

I saw many familiar and friendly faces at the Paramount tonight listening to an acclaimed author talk about getting kids and everyone, really, more connected to Nature. A large group of folks (I’d say around 300) came out to hear Richard Louv talk about his book the Nature Principle, Last Child in theWoods, and the New Nature Movement. Many for whom I am so grateful for their work in this community: Kate Knott of Living Earth School, Piedmont Environmental folks like my friend Melissa Wiley, Linda Winecoff of the Buford Schoolyard Garden, Todd Barnett of the Field School, Wendy Fisher of Mountaintop Montessori and countless others!

The exclamation mark on his talk came on the ride home when I drove by a plastic grocery bag full of someone’s to-go trash in the middle of the road. I’ve always been perplexed at why people would litter?

To me it’s like peeing in the middle of your living room or spray painting graffiti on your bedroom wall. Who does that?

Louv and I have a similar conclusion: the person who dropped that out their car window was truly disconnected from Nature and the planet and truly doesn’t understand the effect of his/her actions. Our charge as people who are connected and do care is to compassionately reach out and help others see the connection and to choose something healthier for everyone.

Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Nature Principle, Human Restoration and the end of Nature Deficit Disorder. He is the recipient of the 2008 Audobon Medal and chairman of the Children and Nature Network

Some take aways for me was that he urged us to think beyond environmentalism and conservation and join what he calls the New Nature movement. He challenged the audience, Do we really JUST want to be sustainable? Adequate. He quoted William McDonough: “Do you want just a sustainable marriage?” Why not shoot for something a lot better than “just good enough.” It’s not just about energy efficiency, he said, it’s about reconnecting on a deep level to Nature – as lawyers, police officers, teachers, entrepeneurs, artists, homeowners, and the list goes on. We all have a role. And (I like this part) let’s not just get kids into nature, let’s get adults in Nature, work in Nature (I’m thinking year two of the Better Business Challenge needs to include board meetings on rivers or in parks!).

And the way we can get more connected to Nature is to simply get out and play in it! He talked about a Family Nature Club in Roanoke that started with a few families and now has over 700 families on its listserv.

I wanted to ask him a question and unfortunately we ran out of time (with my heart pounding and the microphone in hand and everything). So I’ll share it here.

He made a couple of metaphorical references to Nature. Wanting doctors to “prescribe” nature more and needing to heal the bronchial tubes of our rivers. Which got me thinking about Karen Firehock, Director of the Green Infrastructure Center at UVA, who recently told me about her project where kids played in the streams as “doctors” and monitored the stream. And earlier this week I talked to Robbi Savage of the RCS about solutions around cleaning our waterways and she told me that Moore’s Creek is on a “pollution diet.” As a former middle school educator, I used metaphorical thinking a lot and believe that metaphors are a great way to “embody” a concept on a deep level.

So I wanted to ask Mr. Louv what he thought was the most useful and compelling metaphor when it comes to helping connect kids to Nature. I think it’s this idea of the Earth as a body and we are all doctors or healers or personal trainers. We have created “disease” on the planet and we have some serious “healing” to do on this Earth.

And the solution is not going in for a triple bypass surgery, still getting no exercise, eating supersized bad foods, taking more meds, and watching TV. It’s taking a long, hard look at our lifestyle and what we are putting into our Earth body.

Can we look at the whole organism and making healthier, happier, joyful, holistic choices for the betterment of this organism we live on called Earth? I think we can.

I’m looking forward to reading both books, but in the meantime let’s create a Better Backyard for all of us and play in it. The Backyard with Betty Club. Nature play time for kids, teens, dogs, adults, nanas, and pops. Who’s in?


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