There were more than 800 people attending the Missouri Natural Resources Conference in the past few days. It included wildlife and fisheries biologists, foresters, soil scientists, university professors, communicators—people who are working to ensure that Missouri is rich in wild animals and plants for years to come. The theme was “Ensuring Resource Sustainability in an iPod World.”
Over the next few blog posts I’ll share a some of what you might have heard if you’d been able to attend. The three key presenters of the opening session were all excellent. The first to speak was Richard Louv. I read his book, “Last Child in the Woods,” when it first came out. This is the fourth time I’ve heard him speak to various organizations. He has struck a chord with so many different people—not only across the United States but also internationally.
Our culture is changing. As more and more people grow up in an urban/surburban landscape, they have less contact with nature. Declines in numbers of people enjoying traditional outdoor recreation like hunting, fishing and visits to national parks are just a part of that trend. Louv is a realist with a good sense of humor. He talks about how he grew up (with friends and a treehouse they constructed), yet recognizes that many kids today not only don’t have access to woods, but have parents overly frightened about letting them outdoors at all.
He talked about the need to help not only kids get outside, but also their parents. He spoke with great heart about the research that’s shown that simply being in nature can have a positive impact on children’s physical and mental health.
As a someone who would “rather fish than write,” he can easily relate to an active interest in the outdoors. But as the father of two 20-something boys, he also recognizes that their world is not the one in which he grew up.
Louv didn’t say how children should experience the outdoors, but simply that they should and that it may be necessary for their health. As parents and grandparents, it’s up to us to support—in whatever way we choose—that outdoor experience. As developers, the challenge is to ensure that places to get outside aren’t too far from home. As government agencies and organizations, the challenge is to help make it easy for people to get outside. As physicians, the challenge is to recognize that time outside could be a prescription for health. As schools, it’s time to think outside the box of classroom.
It’s all about the health of our children and our future world. The outdoors is a key to all that—one we need to keep. Had you been there, you too would have joined in the standing ovation.