Leave No Child Inside

As a nature-loving child and budding activist, Richard Louv
would have likely seen Derek Thomas as his arch nemesis — a bigwig
at a huge residential development company, the kind whose survey
stakes Louv pulled out and rearranged in small-scale sabotage of a
project infringing on his boyhood woodlands. Now, Louv is working
with Thomas in his ongoing quest to reconnect children with
nature.

Louv — who popularized the idea of ‘nature-deficit disorder’ in
his widely acclaimed book,
Last Child in the Woods — writes about
the emerging allies he’s found in developers in the current edition
of
Orion. He recounts the shock he felt
when Thomas, the vice chairman and chief investment officer of
Newland Communities, invited him to speak at a company meeting
organized by Thomas to introduce his staff to new ideas. Louv
suggested that the people in that room were in part to blame for
children being confined inside, rather than enjoying the great
outdoors. Developers, he said, ‘destroy natural habitat, design
communities in ways that discourage any real contact with
nature, and include covenants that virtually criminalize outdoor
play — outlawing tree-climbing, fort-building, even
chalk-drawing on sidewalks.’

After hearing Louv speak, the crowd broke into energetic
discussions of possible solutions to the disconnect between
neighborhoods and nature. The developers started talking about
nature trails, natural waterways, and on-site nature centers. It
was, Louv writes, a pivotal shift. ‘The quality of their ideas,’ he
explains, ‘mattered less than the fact that they had them. … They
were undergoing a process of discovery that has proliferated around
the country in the past two years, and not only among
developers.’

The movement, Louv explains, has also reached educators, who are
devising more nature-themed programs for children as young as
three. Several cities and states are taking action as well with
campaigns — some titled ‘Leave No Child Inside’ — to combat the
growing numbers of obese and unhealthy children who haven’t been
stretching their bodies and imaginations outside as they
should.

In Louv’s words, ‘developers and environmentalists, corporate
CEOs and college professors, rock stars and ranchers may agree on
little else, but they agree on this: no one among us wants to be a
member of the last generation to pass on to its children the joy of
playing outside in nature.’ — Natalie Hudson

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Leave No Child Inside

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