At Recreation Connections I also learned the difference concerning the roles and responsibilities of volunteer boards, the High Five program, and continued to learn about nature deficit disorder. A term coined by Richard Louv, it addresses the broadening gap between nature and humans. We as humans are not spending enough time in nature and this is most evident in our teenagers and children. Not only is little commitment to including natural spaces in large urban development an issue, but children are playing on concrete courts, with plastic swing sets and slides, and metal play structures. There are some schools who are moving to create nature gardens in order to alleviate the issues that nature deficit disorder can cause, but we need to ensure that children, teens and we are accessing nature in its most basic forms in order to continue to develop into healthy, productive, understanding individuals.
These are the two books written by Richard Louv and I would suggest you grab a copy, give it a read, then take a group of friends and family out into nature. Then again, a solo trip is also as enjoyable as an excursion with others. We also need to ensure that our neighbourhoods make natural spaces a priority, including natural parks, forests, rivers, streams, etc.
Below is part of a paper I wrote last year based on Parks Canada and the need to study why people visit our provincial and national parks in order to create experienced based recreation that meets visitor needs, in order to increase the number of people visiting our amazing parks system. Have a read, then get up and go out and enjoy some nature today!
Nature Deficit Disorder
In essence, as our world becomes more urbanized with fewer natural and groomed spaces therein, and access to larger, natural spaces appear more remote, we begin to experience what has been labeled nature-deficit-disorder or biophobia (its opposite is biophilia). This is the discomfort or aversion to nature and the natural world, which is on the rise in post-modern society, and is subtle as this disconnect is slow for many adults and children (Condon, 2008). There are individual and social repercussions to the loss of contact with nature, particularly when studying children, which may influence children to have poorer co-ordination, loss of self-discovery, antisocial and aggressive behaviour, less unstructured play, loss of boundary formation, and less physical knowledge about the world (Condon, 2008). These skills are important in the development of the individual and point to a new continuum identified to help researchers understand the divide between biophobia and biophilia. This model places the individual on a continuum with people who focus on and enjoy living things and life like processes at the biophilia end; as compared to the biophobia’s end, the people who “culturally acquire…[the] urge to affiliate with technology, human artifact, and solely with human interests regarding the natural world” (Orr, 1993, p. 416; McVay, 1993). The two most important points to grasp about this continuum is the ability to make regular, learned, culturally influenced choices about one’ degree of contact with nature, which leads to the second choice, one’s individual movement along the nature-contact axis.
Urbanization is not the only forerunner to this social change (Condon, 2008), as researchers have pointed to the causes of the lack of contact with nature. These include the removal of nature from community and school playgrounds; fear or injury or loss of a person; potential litigation of a person is hurt on public or private property, lack of government initiatives to preserve space; undervaluing of childhood play; commercial entities that advertise to children (Condon, 2008). As North Americans we are also spending more time inside structures and buildings (ie. home, work, school, cafés, restaurants, movie theatres, etc), and less time in the natural world. A large portion of recreation and leisure time for many people has become electronic-based with computers, video games (online and console), movies, Internet, which requires access to electricity, objects of play, and demarcated inside places of entertainment. Another influence is the aestheticization of people’s lives as we begin to use objects of consumption as signs and symbols to demarcate ourselves from others, for example, the public wearing of ear-buds or large earphones, the café culture and free WiFi use therein. These elements of life also distract a person away from the outside environment to spend more time in the inner sanctuary of the mind or gazing at small objects such as mobile devices. These changes in our social world have widened the divide between the inner lives we lead through technology, and increasingly insular world in which we ignore or do not find significance in the natural world around us.
Interestingly nature and parks can have positive influences on individual lives and the social world. Research has demonstrated that visual images of nature have the power to calm the physiology of people including lowering stress; interactive zoo animals held the interest of children diagnosed with ADHD who began to associate with the animals as kin; and children asked adults to teach them respectful ways to treat animals rather than fear or revile them (Katcher & Wilkins, 1993; McVay, 1993). It is these kinds of stories and academic research that Parks Canada can use to set the stage for healthy and enjoyable visits, which will lead to an increased sense of place in national parks.
Condon, M. (2008). Why Kids Don’t Run Free? In Play and Folklore, 4(50).
Katcher, A. and Wilkins, G. (1993). Dialogue with Animals: Its nature and culture. In S.R. Kellert & E.O. Wilson (Eds.), The Biophilia Hypothesis (pp. 173-200). Washington, D.C: Island Press.
McVay, S. (1993). Prelude: “A Siamese Connexion with a Plurality of Other Mortals”. In S.R. Kellert & E.O. Wilson (Eds.), The Biophilia Hypothesis (pp. 3-19). Washington, D.C: Island Press.
Orr, D.W. (1993). Love It or Lose It: The coming biophilia revolution. In S.R. Kellert & E.O. Wilson (Eds.), The Biophilia Hypothesis (pp. 415-440). Washington, D.C: Island Press.