Written in 2005 and subtitled 'Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder' this is a book that has become a classic and alerted the world to the fact that people really need nature in their lives.
Louv examines the increasing disconnect between humans and nature. He outlines how this has happened in the USA as fewer and fewer people live on the land and more and more live in cities. At the same time parents are becoming more and more anxious about the dangers the outside world poses to their children. As people become more unfamiliar with nature and the outdoors, we become more worried about potential dangers lurking 'out there' and stay indoors, sitting at our computers.
The author outlines how being out in nature helps us to: get enough health exercise, develop our senses, develop creativity and imagination, and learn about sensible risks.
He outlines the barriers to spending time in nature, ranging from excess regulations that effectively criminalise nature play, over-scheduling of children's time (even including the fact that organised outdoor sports take children away from running around freely in the woods), the loss of many green-spaces and the loss of nature studies from schools and colleges and the lure of electronic devices on online indoor activities.
Louv worries that there won't be enough conservationists in the future. He notes that:Algonquin Books.
"Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment - but their physical contact, their intimacy, with nature is fading."
However, since the book was written, several high profile young conservationists and youngsters involved in wildlife identification have emerged in the UK (anyone who watches BBC Springwatch will be familiar with some of them). It's also unfair to say that children who don't get to run about wild in nature won't ever understand it. My exposure to nature as a child was limited to excursions accompanied (and heavily supervised) by my parents and time in the garden. I certainly never spent whole days exploring the woods with only a warning to be home for supper.
The second part of the book focuses more on how cities and towns can be made more nature friendly, this is a slightly depressing read as I couldn't help thinking that in the 15 years since the book was written we should have been able to achieve more of what the author had hoped for.
My main issue with the book is that it is very US-centric, as a European, I would have really appreciated more data and case studies from Europe.
it's a good book to read for anyone concerned with nature education, though if you're familiar with the arguments then you may not really need to read the book.