Monday, December 14, 2009

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers 12/14/2009

This past week Liberty Wildlife’s Education Team presented a booth at the Valley Forward Annual Luncheon. The Keynote Speaker at the event was Richard Loev, a quiet spoken man who has started an international movement after writing his book,Last Child in the Woods.

Very simply put the premise of the book is that many children today are suffering from what he calls “nature deficit disorder”, resulting in physical and mental problems including obesity, diabetes, attention deficit disorder to name just a few. They (and most often their parents) are hooked into technology, organized activities, and fear of the out of doors (and the boogey man that might be there) at the cost of experiencing the natural world and unorganized, creative play. It is a wonderful book that should be required reading. It will open your eyes, trust me.

Before presenting to the luncheon attendees, he gave a short workshop to a group of high school and middle school students. In the student workshop he told the story of a fifteen year old he met in Palo Alto, California. After hearing Mr. Loev, the student wrote him an elegant letter about attending a nature camp that his parents, against his will, signed him up for. He mentioned in the letter that he had a tremendous fear of going to the camp, of having to give up his laptop, his cell phone, his i pod, his game boy. He couldn’t bear the thought of not being connected to his technology…his lifeline.

After the session at nature camp things changed drastically. In his letter he explained that at first he was terrified. He basically had withdrawal anxieties. But, he persevered; he made it through; and the outcome was that after the unplugged time in nature he had found a whole new way to be connected! What he experienced was a new ability to tune into people and to the natural world. He realized that he had to decide to live in both worlds…to allow himself time to live consciously and to turn away from the “screen”. He learned to open his other senses and to see the world with all of his senses at one time….a primitive survival talent that the majority of us have long since forgotten.

He learned that technology isn’t the enemy, but that it is all about balance. But, he learned ultimately that being in nature made him feel more alive.

Now I ask you, could there be a more important lesson for a fifteen year old to learn? Or, for that matter, a more important lesson for any of us to learn?