Edward O. Wilson introduced us to what became known as “The Biophilia Hypothesis” which states that there is an instinctive bond between humans and the natural world or the ecosystem from which we emerged. It sounds like common sense to me. Countless research studies have concluded that humans, especially children, are happier and healthier when exposed regularly to natural settings. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)are better able to focus after spending time in natural environments, children’s cognitive development is enhanced, and even bullying appears to be reduced when children play in a natural setting. Issues such as childhood obesity, stress and depression are dramatically reduced.
Many of us spend most of our day ‘plugged in’ to our cell phones, computers, video games, and other electronic toys. Most schools are promoting the use of technology to increase the motivation or desire of children to learn over field trips, outdoor learning, and recreational activities. Virtual learning as opposed to experiential learning is seen as the way of the future. In fact, many try to convince us that virtual learning is a form of direct experiential learning. But don’t be fooled – it is a golden cage that dehumanizes us.
Richard Louv ‘s award winning book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, outlines the profound impact technology and urbanization has had on us. In fact, we have reached a point that many parents are afraid to send their children outdoors to play. Technology as a tool can be wonderful, technology as a lifestyle has had catastrophic results that can be seen all around us (check out the video introduction - http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/videos/).
Some environmental activists claim that our disrespect of the environment is based on arrogance but I believe it has gone beyond that – it is based on self-loathing nurtured by those who profit from our self-reliance on the very things that are not only destroying the earth but making us literally ill – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Alienation, depression, stress, and anger are increasing among our youth and yet we don’t see the obvious. We would recognize those symptoms in other creatures removed from their natural environment but we don’t seem to have the awareness to see this epidemic in our society – our “nature-deficit disorder’. We have been tricked into believing that our quality of life depends upon creating infrastructure and systems that support technological advancement at the expense of our natural habitats upon which our very survival depends. I’m not suggesting that we should do without technology but fostering the belief that machines can or should take the place of natural human activity is dehumanizing and like all beings removed from their natural environment diminishes our natural abilities and ultimately are self-worth.
I have made this analogy before – but here I go again. My call to action to prevent us becoming electronically connected drones – the Borg. Resistance is not futile! Humanity is connected naturally through the web of life that supports us. Preserving it strengthens us and our realization that we have just begun to discover our human potential preserves our desire to learn, connect, and experience the wonders of nature. Time to take my dog and walk the trails of beautiful Niagara-on-the-lake.
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