"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Nature Deficit Disorder

My father suffered chronic ill health throughout his working life as a research scientist, almost certainly brought on as much by stress as by physical disorder. In mid life he was fortunate to inherit some capital from his parents. With this he was able to take up dairy farming. He was a city man until then, knowing little if anything about animal husbandry. He was also a proclaimed agnostic. But with much practical advice and help from others, plenty of hard physical labor and long relentless hours with never a day off, he succeeded in creating a compassionate farming business around a dairy herd that he adored! Mum said he loved his cows more than her?! Perhaps!
There was little financial reward for his efforts, but alongside a return to excellent physical fitness, without doubt he found some kind of spiritual healing and fulfillment that had been missing in his previous city life.

The National Trust looks after places of historic interest or natural beauty on a permanent basis for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Tourists coming to the UK love visiting these places. Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill, is always popular. The Trust has large tracts of heath and moorland, woodland and coastlines, protected for all to enjoy nature at its very best. Yesterday I heard that the Trust is concerned that our children today are losing touch with nature, in alarming numbers. 

It so happens someone had just told me that most children in her (rural) school class of 30 did not know what a primrose looked like.

The Trust are calling this Nature Deficit Disorder.

Come on everyone, we need to get children engaged with nature again. Let them out into nature, to explore and touch and feel and really appreciate their natural heritage.
This is important, because by losing contact with nature, with the land and the soil, with the animals and the plants, I believe that a part of our soul dies - and we deny our kids a spiritual experience, a means to develop and nurture their spiritual literacy - essential for a good life.
And we do not have to own a farm to renew that connection and get our kids involved! Many find less expensive and more readily available succor working the land within their own gardens, with healthy homegrown fruit and vegetables a valuable byproduct of their endeavors. And for those without a garden, there are our allotments, or community gardens, such as the thriving Clinton Community Garden in New York City. (This is a huge and  inspiring success story of urban regeneration. Taking in hand an ugly lot in the heart of that city, that had been abandoned for many years and strewn with all kinds of debris including dumped cars, keen volunteer citizens have created a green garden sanctuary, a place of tranquility for all to enjoy. With more than 100 plots now actively cultivated, it has a waiting list for those who would like a share of the action.)
There is some hope because there seems to be a real resurgence of interest in getting back onto the land, getting back to our roots, seeking a reconnection of soil and soul. 
But we must involve our children in all of this.
What about those who for any reason are unable to find some land with which to make such a connection? There are parks, river and canal banks to explore on a sunny weekend, there are window boxes and tubs and all manner of other containers we can grow stuff in. We can take our kids by bus out into the countryside for nature walks. We can ask teachers to do nature walks with the kids and let them build up nature tables with their interesting findings. We loved doing that as kids. Why has this practice apparently stopped?
If we don't reach out to nature, learn about it, understand and respect it, if we don't reconnect with soil, then we miss out on a great deal. We miss out on solace and healing at a spiritual level. We can then turn our wounds, our own brokenness, against the natural world. And that is what we are doing. By our thoughtless actions we can damage the very soul of nature that could help us most in our own healing.

The trouble is that this powerful source of healing is itself now hurt. Nature has become the docile dog that will savage the child who innocently pokes it in the eye. We are hurting our planet. If we do not act quickly, it may turn on us and destroy us.

And healing our kids' Nature Deficit Disorder is the best place to start. 
They are after all our future.

Adapted from Healing This Wounded Earth - Eleanor Stoneham 2011

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