We are beginning another week of blistering heat, but we have finally had substantial rain and nature is to be found everywhere in the city. The cicadas with their incessant buzz are everywhere, the wasps that depend on them are everywhere, and the birds that are making a spectacle of themselves as they feed on both in the early morning and late evening are everywhere. I think I too must be a bit of a spectacle standing on the porch watching the birds dive for both cicadas and wasps or staring at the ground at cicada shells and the sand borrowing hornets. Observing such things makes me six years old again when Tina and I would stand in a creek bed catching minnows or running through fields to flush out snakes giving our mother no end of dislike.
Are our children still fascinated with nature? Do we even allow them to be? In his book The Last Child in the Woods Richard Luov expresses his disgust at an SUV ad that shows two kids in the back seat watching a flip down video screen while the vehicle drives down a road next to a mountain stream. I don’t think the ad has run in a long time, hopefully because someone realized what a gaffe it must have been.
Like Luov, I too recall the trips on the road and the fascination with the open road is the most American of things, but we are doing our children no favors when we inundate them with movies and video games on such trips. I wonder if they will view geography with the same radical amazement as the generations before.
These modern diversions were a luxury I did not have in my childhood. Granted my parents were not above stopping at roadside service areas to buy books and toys to quite my sister and me, an approach that never worked, but we were also told to look out the window as my dad would ramble on about some great thing we were seeing.
Luov says we now live in an age of a sickness he calls Nature Deficit Disorder. By sacrificing a fascination and respect for nature, we are giving up a big part of our spirituality The problem is even deeper though. We live in a time where children are becoming disconnected from their environments altogether. We are ignoring the good creation by failing to instill a fascination for the inheritance of the Earth and even more alarming, we are ignoring our responsibilities as co-creators in failing to create a fascination for the heritage found in our families. I refer you to a blog written by Sarah Wright on this as she expresses it more eloquently than I can.
The conclusion of the Luov book includes 100 baby steps we can take to reclaim the spirituality we are sacrificing. I thought it would be the usual ilk, but there was much there I had not thought of and it came with many resources. More importantly, many of the ideas listed address the sickness that is the breakdown of the family expressed by Wright as well as the lack of fascination with nature with which Luov is concerned. Can these ideas work on a societal level? I am pessimistic, but if even one SUV sells without a flip down video screen it is a victory and if even one child has to listen to a this is how I met your mother story, that is a victory too. We have been given the good creation and one another. We would do well to reside in the fascination of those things.