Author Richard Louv believes that America’s children are now suffering from a syndrome he identifies as “nature-deficit disorder.” In his recent book, Last Child in the Woods, Louv suggests that the current generation of American children knows the Discovery Channel better than their own backyards–and that this loss of contact with nature leads to impoverished lives and stunted imagination.

Louv begins by recounting an anecdote involving his son, Matthew. When the boy was about ten years of age, he asked his father: “Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?” The boy was honestly reflecting on his knowledge of his father’s boyhood. Richard Louv, like most of us who came of age in his generation, spent most of our playing time outdoors, building forts in the woods, exploring every nook and cranny of our yards, and participating in activities that centered in child-organized outdoor fun. Louv reflects, “Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems, in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.”

Louv argues that this represents nothing less than a sudden shift in the way Americans live, raise their children, and engage the natural world. “Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment–but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. That’s exactly the opposite of how it was when I was a child.”….

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