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When people think of nature, too often the only images that come to mind are distant, expansive places like Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon, or even more remote wilderness like Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is a grave mistake. Viewed through the wildlands lens, nature is something you might visit at best a couple of times a year while on vacation. Yet nature is everywhere—in our backyards, schoolyards, and gardens, thrusting skyward through sidewalk cracks and chirping in the neighbor’s tree. Indeed nature is quite literally everything, from stars and galaxies to planet Earth and the stuff in you. As Henry David Thoreau once said:


“It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves. There is none such. It is the bog in our brains and bowels, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires that dream. I shall never find in the wilds of Labrador a greater wildness than in some recess of Concord.”


If we’re going to connect children (and ourselves) with nature, we must learn, as Thoreau did, to experience the natural world often, and with our full suite of senses. But what kind of nature do we need?


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Comment by Manny Kiesser on September 23, 2012 at 6:45pm


Right on the money.  I catch myself aggrandizing this thing called nature, and also expecting all nature experiences to be profound and cathartic.  Perhaps nature is at it's best when we are immersed in it and we can appreciate it daily just going about our daily lives.  I walk a few dozen yards to my car each morning.  I'm working hard to take note of the sunrise, the crows in the trees, the scent of the morning mist....

Comment by Kenny Ballentine on September 3, 2012 at 4:14pm

Well said, Scott. 

Comment by Denise Dahn on August 31, 2012 at 9:33am

I agree wholeheartedly with your approach, and I like your new terminology. Getting nature back into our lives, especially for kids, is one of the most important challenges we face. Recently, I have been disturbed at the increasing threats from high-impact recreation development in natural areas - seen by cash-strapped communities as a way to make easy money and get 'kids outside'. In Seattle, we just squashed a proposal by the Parks Dept. to develop one of our last stands of urban forests for a high-impact canopy zip-line. Some people seem to think that since 'nature' is no longer 100% pristine anyway...why bother preserving it? I had thought at that point we needed new terminology...something that shows nature doesn't need to be pristine in order to be worth preserving...something like 'wildishness'. But I like yours better!

Comment by Ken Finch on August 31, 2012 at 8:12am

Nice piece, Scott.  I see a growing need to distinguish between "wild" and "domestic" nature; many people seem to equate the two.  Both have their value, but the former is the one that brings the greatest impacts to kids -- even in small scale.

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