In just the past couple of weeks, the children-in-nature crisis has been featured in the New York Times, the LA Times, and on the BBC wireservice. Driven by the heroic work of Richard Louv, the Children & Nature Network, and many others, high profile media coverage is getting the word out. Childhood in this country is dysfunctional, even broken—and so too is our society. Rampant obesity, attention deficit disorder, and diabetes; depression, skyrocketing school dropout, and ever-diminishing environmental conditions; interlinked problems like these threaten both our children and the places they live. At stake, some say, is the persistence of humanity. Drunk on technology with the pedal to the metal, we race toward the precipice with our heads down, texting.


Although connecting children with nature is certainly no panacea for the world’s ills, it may be the closest thing we’ve got. The freefalling biosphere is not, first and foremost, an external crisis of environment, but an internal crisis of mind. Our dominant worldview sees nature as resources to be exploited rather than relatives worthy of respect. Sustainability—humanity living in a mutually enhancing relationship with the rest of nature—demands that we adopt a strong sense of compassion for the nonhuman world. As biologist Stephen J. Gould once claimed, “We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature—for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”(1)


Yet a fundamental question remains. How exactly do people form a meaningful, lifelong connection with nature?

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