As we spend less and less time in natural surroundings our senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, says Richard Louv.
The American conservationist believes this reduces the richness of human experiences and contributes to a condition he calls “nature-deficit disorder”. Louv coined the term to refer to the human cost of alienation from nature.
It’s not a medical condition, but Louv believes that it is adding to increased cases of anxiety, depression, obesity, vitamin D deficiency, myopia and asthma worldwide.
Some studies have even linked outdoor play with creativity and our ability to think outside the box. Part of the problem is growing urbanisation.
In 2008, for the first time in history, more people on Earth were living in urban areas than in rural areas. “If we are going to have meaningful experiences with nature, we are going to have to rethink nature within cities,” says Louv.
“To connect to that nature, we can walk in our neighbourhoods, get to know these pockets of nature, find out how to protect them and then learn new ways to bring more nature to the urban area.”
Coupled with this is the lure of the screen, to which Louv admits even he is susceptible.
“The more high-tech our lives become the more all of us need nature. It can be hard to move children away from the television and computer. It’s hard for adults as well. It’s hard for me! There may even be symptoms of withdrawal from media. The antidote to that is not to go back to nature, but to go forward to nature.”
How to reconnect with nature
So where to start? “It can be as simple as planning regular walks around a local park, or taking picnics, or learning how to garden in containers on the back stoop.
“You can encourage wildlife rehabilitation or go bushwalking, birdwatching or camping. You can join or start a family nature club.”