co-founder and Chairman Emeritus, Children & Nature Network.
Author, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" and "The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age."
We’ve come a long way since the first Earth Day on this day in 1970. I remember the speakers and the speeches that day, from the steps of Strong Hall at the University of Kansas, and how the springtime campus looked stunningly and appropriately green.
Built on the shoulders of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir and Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold and many others, the creation of the modern environmental movement came none too soon.
I’m old enough to remember rivers that caught fire when I was in high school that were still flammable when I graduated from college — rivers that later became good fisheries because of the Clean Water Act. No one can diminish what environmentalism has accomplished. But now come new challenges.
Today, we see an evolution of that movement into one that includes but adds to the basics of conservation and sustainability, one that offers a compelling, inspiring portrait of the future — not just of a survivable world, but of a nature-rich world in which our children and grandchildren thrive.
The children and nature movement is at the heart of all of this movement. It brings people together who otherwise might not want to be at the same room. So, starting with that, who’s part of the new nature movement?
You’re part of the new nature movement if….
• You want to reconnect with real life in a virtual age.
• You’re a student who’s decided to build a career connecting people to nature.
• You’re an entrepreneur who wants to build a business connecting people to nature.
• You’re a parent, child or therapist who believes that the family that plays in nature together stays together.
• You’re a biologist, landscape architect or policymaker dedicated to transforming cities into engines of biodiversity and human health.
• You’re someone who understands that all spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that nature is a window into that wonder.
• You hunger for authenticity; you believe in nature’s power to create a deeper sense of personal and regional identity.
• You can be of any race or culture, you can live in an inner-city, suburb or small town, and you see your connection to nature as a birthright.
• You’re a biophilic architect on the cutting edge of green design.
• You’re a nature-smart developer who creates or rebuilds neighborhoods that connect people to nature.
• You’re an urban planner or public health official who believes that creating more nearby nature builds better health, tighter social bonds and a smarter workforce.
• You’re an employer using biophilic design to create a more productive workplace.
• You’re a nature-smart homeowner determined to create a healthier, happier, restorative home, yard and garden.
• You’re a pediatrician or other health care professional who prescribes nature for your young patients and their families.
• You’re helping a hospital, children’s mental health center, nursing home or other health facility encourage healing through nature.
• You’re an ecopsychologist, wilderness therapy professional, nature therapist, camp counselor, docent, or park ranger working as a “park health paraprofessional.”
• You’re a “new agrarian” — an organic farmer or rancher or urban gardener.
• You’re a locavore, dedicated to consuming
locally grown food.
• You want to reignite all of your senses.
• You’re a nature-smart teacher who takes your students outside because you understand the power of nature to help them learn.
• You’re an artist, writer, photographer or musician who knows the power of nature to stimulate creativity, and you use your talents to reconnect people to nature.
• You’re an outdoor recreationist who restores nature.
• You’re a citizen naturalist.
• You care about the human relationship with nature, whether you’re liberal, conservative…or other.
• You’re a law enforcement official who believes nature can play a role in crime prevention and prison recidivism.
• You’re an attorney who protects the forgotten human right to our connection to nature and the responsibilities that come with that right
• You’re a mayor or county official or business leader looking for a new way to envision your region’s future.
• You’re done with despair; you want to create a newer world.
Most importantly, the new nature movement isn’t about going back to nature, but forward to nature.
The list above is a partial list. Are you on it? Can you add to it?