Mother Nature’s Child

Fred First and Richard Louv, October 2010

Title refers to the movie. Not the Beatles song by a similar name. Though you can hum the latter at the former, and you and I can harmonize on the chorus. And I do the bird chirps at the end. Okay?

The next film in the SustainFloyd-sponsored film series will be Saturday March 24. I’ve previewed the film, and even though it covers familiar issues of “nature deficit disorder” that have been on my radar now for seven years, for the newly-exposed to these issues, it will stir up convictions that we stand at peril if we move into the future even less connected to the tangible, essential and at-hand world of nature–especially our children.

I’ll be on a panel for discussion afterwards. I’m not sure that the final slate of panelists has been nailed down yet.

As I might have a chance to explain after the movie, my interest and concern about the “denaturing” of our young folks came from my teaching of Environmental Biology (freshman non-majors) at Radford in 2004-5. These kids were appallingly ignorant of the natural world.

Soon thereafter, I discovered a piece in Orion magazine that spoke of Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by the author of that article, Richard Louv. He had written a book as well–Last Child in the Woods–and I immediately bought it and devoured it, and began to shift my own writing towards the costs of the indifference to nature that ignorance breeds. Louv became my patron saint of nature literacy.

As it turns out, a few years later, I walked and talked and had dinner with the author, who was keynote speaker at the Blue Ridge Parkway 75th centennial in Roanoke a few years ago. We had a lot to talk about. He had a new book coming out (title not yet determined) that would look at the issue of adults distanced from nature–many of them once happiest when building stick forts or playing hide and seek in the nearest woodlot or meadow, unsupervised, and unguided but by their imaginations. That book has since been published as “The Nature Principle.”

Louv is prominent in Mother Nature’s Child, though the main stars are, of course, the children. Join us March 24.

For those interested, I wrote a piece about Louv’s Parkway talk and the Parkway as natural resource that appeared in the Floyd Press, Roanoke Star Sentinel, and the Parkway folks circulated it widely as well.  And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

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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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