Nature Deficit and the Anthropocene

I look forward to participating in the discussion next week about our relationship to nature — particularly but by no means exclusively the relationship of our children to the outdoors.

There are both long-term and short-term costs to be paid as the lives of our kids become farther removed from outdoor experience and understanding and care for nature:

The short-term impacts include a startling increase in childhood obesity, complications related to attention deficit disorder, and the general lack of social engagement by children totally absorbed in screen related distractions.

The long-term consequences are that a childhood indifference to and ignorance of the natural world that is accessible and immediately at hand can result in an adult attitude later on that nature has no bearing on their lives in any real sense.

If we don’t know nature outside as children, we may see ourselves as outside nature as adults.

We already see signs of this general apathy to entire plant and animal groups (amphibians, freshwater fishes, song birds) and habitats around the world–tropical rain forest, coral reefs, and forests over quick frackable wealth.

But there are signs of hope that this kind of attitude is changing, and that is chiefly what I hope to bring to the discussion on November 13.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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