The Nature Principle: Human Restoration And The End Of Nature Deficit Disorder
August 2011: What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology? How can each of us help create that life-enhancing world, not only in a hypothetical future, but right now, for our families and for ourselves? - Richard Louv.
Those are just some of the thought-provoking questions that the author poses. As our lives become more urbanised, less natural, the quality of existence is diminished. When Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods: saving our children from nature deficit disorder it was at once an indictment of the manner in which the American dream had severed the connection of children to nature and a call for humans to rejig their connections to nature to improve their own lives and to reclaim happiness.
In my case, the outdoors has always been intrinsic to life itself. But until my daughter Miel introduced me to Louv a year or so ago, the realisation had not struck that a distancing from nature could impact people's body and mind this dramatically. In Last Child he presented very simple ways in which we could 'heal the broken bond' and listed practical steps each of us could take, irrespective of age, in our own backyards.
With the Nature Principle, Louv goes further by stating unequivocally that: The future will belong to the nature-smart - those individuals, families, businesses and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.
This is a book about our relationship with nature that both practitioners and 'worshippers' should read, if only to ratify their own inner beliefs and convictions, which may not always be reflected in the ethereal world of 'pure science'. Post a trek through the wilderness, or even an abstract gaze into the distant horizon across the sea... why, for instance does one feel calmer, more refreshed... more together? Louv has no doubt that this is because:
... exposure to natural settings reduces stress, stimulates creativity and cognitive development, and tunes in all the senses.
I have to agree with him, particularly when he goes on to state that:
... reconnecting to nature is one key to growing a larger environmental movement. That reconnection is visceral and immediately useful to many people's lives... to act most of us need motivation beyond despair.
Over the past two decades I have found myself sharing both my love of nature and concern for the manner in which we are participating in its destruction with hundreds of thousands of children and young parents. I take great care not to overwhelm children with depressing stories, or shroud them with frustration or the 'impossibility' of protecting nature. On the contrary, I tell them that like a cut or wound on their bodies, nature heals itself, and that our responsibility is to see that environmental wound is not inflicted on wound. "We can and WILL save the tiger," is the battle cry of Kids for Tigers, the Sanctuary Tiger Programme.
As Louv moves expertly, introducing us to a new lexicon, from 'Nature Neurons' (nature- embedded sixth sense) to 'Vitamin N' (for Natural World), plus scores of other startling thoughts (not necessarily new, just hidden), all suggesting that nature can touch and heal body and mind in remarkable, almost miraculous ways.
At the heart of The Nature Principle lies the solid belief and conviction that our society has developed an out-sized faith in technology but we are yet to fully realise or even adequately study how human capacities are enhanced through the power of the natural world.
As I read through his wonderful book, I found myself nodding in agreement and marvelling at the convergent evolution of ideas and concepts that Louv was articulating page after page, and which I knew to be real from a lifetime of walking in the woods.
One of the most powerful thoughts embedded in this easy-to-read book actually predates Louv by a century. It's a passage by John Muir that Louv quotes in Chapter 4, titled Fountains of Life:
Thousands of tired, never-shaken, over-civilised people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
As Sanctuary readers might have guessed, I strongly recommend this book. You deserve it!
By Richard Louv
Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2011,
Hard Cover, 317 pages,
Cover price: $25.95/-, Available on Amazon for $15.02/-
Reviewed by Bittu Sahgal