Ocean Champions is the only political voice for ocean health. We take a non-partisan approach in working with
the U.S. Congress to ensure ocean health through electoral and legislative action.

No Child Left Inside

Summer is over and school begins again. Do parents still take pictures of their kids in their new school clothes staring directly into the early morning sun as mom tries to get their scrunched-up and sunburned faces in focus?

I hope not. I still have a giant blue dot floating in front of my eyes because of those pictures.

But please tell me your kids didn’t spend all summer indoors playing Guitar Hero.

“ Yeah, I’d love to watch you play Free Bird again. There might be some brain cells not damaged from the first three thousand times I heard it in the 70’s.”

Or, perhaps your kids spent the summer outdoors drifting, like shin padded butterflies, across a semi manicured field as you yelled out brilliant strategic plays and encouragement.

“Kick the Ball! No, the other way! That’s okay honey any score is good, even if the other team gets the point. Yay!”

If either of these scenarios sounds familiar your children may be suffering from nature-deficit disorder. Don’t worry though, according to Richard Louv, writer, nature lover, and Chairman of the Children & Nature Network the cure is simple:

“Drill for oil?”


“Take a pill?”

“No! Go out side and play.”
(Side effects may include scrapes, scratches, bug bites, getting dirty, and having fun.)

Turns out nature plays an important role in our development, by inspiring creativity, teaching us independence, and developing our curious natures.

“See Timmy that’ why we never poke Mr. Badger in the eye. Now we’ll practice first aid.”

Another group, whose motto is “Healthier Kids, Healthier World” believes a host of problems such as childhood obesity, and climate change can be helped by connecting kids and nature. That’s why they are promoting, along with most of our Ocean Champion candidates, a bill intended to improve environmental education in all our schools.http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=act_sub_actioncenter_federal_NCLB

All this great, and kids and nature should go together like dirt and water. But you want to know the real problem?
It’s us. We have invented so many ways to avoid nature that it’s no surprise if our kids think of the outdoors as a lame video game. I mean come on, I was talking with some friends this weekend and they were exicted because they had just bought this:e swatter

This isn’t a tennis racket it’s an Electric Flyswatter. Why do we need this? Is Haliburton selling Teflon armor to flies now, or do we just want more power to defeat nature? What’s next shooting moose from helicopters? Yeah, right!

“Can we drill for oil now!”

“No. Go outside and play!”


“Don’t make me swat you!”

— Mike, September 5, 2008 @ 1:45 pm


  1. Before they make Electric Flyswatting an Olympic sport - get your kids in the ocean!

    Comment by Maureen — September 5, 2008 @ 2:21 pm
  2. Last Child in the Woods ––
    Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
    by Richard Louv
    Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
    November 16, 2006

    In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

    But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building “forts”, farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what’s to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

    It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though (”conveniently”) never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, “Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!”, at

    It should also be obvious (but apparently isn’t) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don’t learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building “forts”, mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

    On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: “Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back.” Then he titles his next chapter “Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?” Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are “nature-lovers” and are “just hikers on wheels”. But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It’s not!

    On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one’s health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one’s experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the “civilized” world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I’ve been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can’t remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

    It’s clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.


    Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

    Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

    Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier — An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

    Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

    Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

    Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods — Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

    Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

    Reed, Sarah E. and Adina M. Merenlender, “Quiet, Nonconsumptive Recreation Reduces Protected Area Effectiveness”. Conservation Letters, 2008, 1–9.

    Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

    Vandeman, Michael J., especially and

    Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

    “The Wildlands Project”, Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

    Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

    Comment by Mike Vandeman, Ph.D. — September 6, 2008 @ 12:03 am
  3. Wow, Now that is a response that will keep me reading for awhile. You bring up good points about minimizing our impact on nature, and I agree wildlife has no interest in interacting with us, except for maybe the bears, raccoons, possums and other animals that have learned to forage on the waste we create. I admit to a bias in my thinking about nature that kept me from considering some of the points you have made. This bias is from growing up in an a suburban area with a lot if open spaces. These canyons and fields were to be honest places that hadn’t been developed yet and the wildlife we encountered was either faster than us (jack rabbits) or out of our reach hawks, doves, etc). We were limited to the bugs, spiders, lizards and the occasional snake too small or too slow to get away from us. We hunted these things out of curiosity and not to kill them. Traditional hunting was something you had have your dad take you to do, so we rarely did that. As for fishing, my dad’s favorite sport, I liked being on the boat but never liked fishing for the same reasons you mention. This is a long winded way of saying I automatically think of my encounters with nature as the norm and so I appreciate your perspective.

    Comment by Mike — September 8, 2008 @ 9:18 am
  4. Kids need wild spaces, fo sho. Remember when we could stay out until the street lights came on? I don’t remember my mom asking where we’ll be. She just figured my brothers and I were okay until those lights came on.
    I remember when the parents would sit on the front porch after dinner and talk about the new cars they’re designing in Detroit. The bigger the better. All you could hear were people slapping at mosquitoes under the porch lights. THWAP!
    Then again, all that time on their hands, and pesky mosquitoes, probably contributed to the over-population issue today.


    Comment by Denise — September 8, 2008 @ 7:56 pm

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Ocean Champions is the only political voice for ocean health. We take a non-partisan approach in working with the U.S. Congress to ensure ocean health through electoral and legislative action.

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