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Kids Detached From Nature? Here's One Example

The Boring Woods of Sequoia Kings

Trees like 'General Sherman' in Sequoia/Kings are boring, so say the tween mall rats in California.

Think electronics aren't getting in the way of kids and nature? While it might not be true in every nook and cranny of the country, it is happening in some areas. Take California, for instance. Tommy Nguyen told the San Francisco Chronicle trees are pretty boring.

"I'd rather be at the mall because you can enjoy yourself walking around looking at stuff as opposed to the woods," Nguyen said from the comfort of the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall.

In Yosemite and other parks, he said, furrowing his brow to emphasize the absurdly lopsided comparison, "the only thing you look at is the trees, grass and sky."

This was the hook Chronicle staff writer Peter Fimrite used to get into Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods.

OK, we've all heard plenty about Mr. Louv's book the past two years; he's made a cottage industry out of it. So let's move on to some recent hard data. Again, here's a snippet from the Chronicle:

The nature gap is just as big a problem in California, where there are more state and national parks than anywhere else in the country. A recent poll of 333 parents by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 30 percent of teenagers did not participate in any outdoor nature activity at all this past summer. Another 17 percent engaged only once in an outdoor activity like camping, hiking or backpacking.

The numbers coincide with national polls indicating that children and teenagers play outdoors less than young people did in the past. Between 1997 and 2003, the proportion of children ages 9 to 12 who spent time hiking, walking, fishing, playing on the beach or gardening declined 50 percent, according to a University of Maryland study.

The story goes on to blame urbanization, video games, fear of nature, even higher park entrance fees for the trend.

Fortunately, folks are trying to reverse this trend. Groups such as the National Park Service, which is working with others on outreach, the Outdoor Industry Association, and other conservation groups.

For more information on what's being done and what can be done, check out the Children and Nature Network.


I think that's an excellent point by Anonymous of 11:32 a.m. on July 16, and so is Mark E.'s immediately preceding observation, which he posted almost five years ago.

The model of trying to get kids to adapt at the outset to their grandparents' earnest and reverential attitude toward wildlands as outdoor "cathedrals" (to quote Mark E.) seems to have proven itself ineffective. As Anonymous observes, only after you've let kids do what they want to do, which is often going to mean something other than hiking, will they become interested in the setting and perhaps become interested in conservation later.

Obviously there has to be a balance. Kids can't just go around digging things up, littering, harassing wildlife, shooting BB guns, and starting fires. That challenge should be quite manageable, however, in capable hands.

Today's New York Times has an online discussion that's related to what people have been discussing in this thread:

It goes to what Anonymous of two posts ago contended: "Parents nowadays are so competitive and they often don't see the value in just letting their kids get dirty in the creek."

It goes farther than what the author and the article is willing to go although the reasons for the young's disconnect listed are part of it. There is an effort by those that in effect, want to limit the real connections that often become transformational experiences in our Parks with, perhaps, an over emphasis on look but don't touch attitude. Not talking about the extremes here but there are some that like to further the argument that they must protect the resource "from" people while the young are seeking a more interactive (hate that term as it relates to internet and the electronics). The transformational experience of growing to completely absorb these great places is often also accompanied by the increasingly unbridled laughter (and openness) by young people because of their mules passing gas going down the trail. Kids like real and don't usually receive the environmental lingo as something other than another rule unless it gets their attention. The Mule Rides into the Canyon and the Raft Trips are the best examples I can think of. I've seen the results in both the young, people of all ages, many with severe physical and emotional challenges. I appreciate the challenges allowing access to the special opportunities while also considering the resource. I know it quite well. Respect for the resource comes with the opportunities.

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