Not Last In the Woods

Jen Burch

In author Richard Louv’s groundbreaking book Last Child in the Woods, he coined the term “nature deficit disorder” as a way of expressing concern about kids’ diminishing experiences in the natural world.  Louv recognized the loss of meaningful time outside for its tragic consequences for the future and health of the environment, for kids’ physical and mental health, and for their spiritual wellbeing. The book and the term “nature deficit disorder” struck a deep chord with people from many walks of life, from parents and teachers to policymakers. In response, the Children and Nature Network was founded to collate and disseminate a growing body of research in the field, and helped to build a movement aimed at reconnecting children and nature. Many of us in camp nodded and smiled. We’ve known all along that nature is good for kids. We see how the experience of time outdoors changes them, making them more creative, cooperative, inquisitive, joyful. We recognized Louv’s writing and research as support and justification for the work we were already doing in camp—getting kids out, helping them learn experientially about nature, getting them wet, muddy, tired, and jubilant. We knew that camp experiences were helping to build healthy kids who could carry the torch of environmentalism and live abundantly and harmoniously wherever on earth they were planted. We also saw that camp could help connect the dots between nature and Spirit: the awe and mystery of the stars, a thunderstorm, or the tiniest bird feather holds the ability to connect us to a grand and infinite reality beyond ourselves. Our own lives and concerns are put in perspective. Amazement, wonder, and reflection become our natural companions. In religious camps, these experiences become part of the religious camp immersion. Creation reflects its Creator, and to love and care for it and participate in it becomes a religious practice of devotion to the Creator.

Louv’s latest book, The Nature Principle, extends his message to include adults. Naturally, it isn’t only our children who have suffered a devastating separation from the natural world that is our home and sustenance. The new book combines fascinating research findings, compelling personal stories, and ideas for practical application intended to bring us back into restorative relationship with nature. Louv’s inspiring work can help to guide us forward.

Jen Burch, M.Div. is management consultant for ACA-RAC, a former United Methodist Camp director and wilderness educator.  She believes in the spiritually transformative power of religious camps. 

Richard Louv will offer a keynote address at ACA’s upcoming “Convergence” Conference in Atlanta. RAC and Church Mutual invite you also to join us for our 2/22 Wednesday conference lunch, where Louv’s presentation will focus on the impact of nature on our spiritual development. Call ACA to reserve your lunch ticket: 765-342-8456.