Why We Need Nature
Listening to Richard Louv and 'The Nature Principle' reconfirms conviction that we need our time outdoors.
Why do I enjoy the outdoors so much? The short answer is that nature makes me feel better. Being out in natural areas soothes my spirit, which gets bruised by enclosed spaces, technologies that demand my time and the frenetic pace of urban living. And so I try to get outside as often as possible, to walk in the County Grounds or along the Menomonee River Parkway.
Richard Louv gave a talk last week at the Urban Ecology Center. He is the author of Last Child in the Woods, which introduced the term “nature-deficit disorder” and sparked a national movement to get children outdoors and experience nature. Louv has written a new book called The Nature Principle that takes his idea to the next level and demonstrates how important it is for adults as well as children to have a connection to nature.
Louv made it clear that I am not alone in my need to take regular walks in the woods and why I feel uneasy and dispirited if I go for long periods without getting outside.
I had enjoyed Last Child in the Woods when it came out. I consider it an important book. I therefore went to hear Louv talk with great anticipation. He was as thoughtful and inspiring as I’d expected.
Louv’s primary message confirmed my own experience, that nature is restorative. Further, nature “nourishes the best human qualities of creativity, intelligence, connection and compassion.” He said that “we need a Nature Movement" that would be distinct from what has long been called the environmental movement. He observed that the latter term has become loaded with political baggage and that having a connection with nature is a universal human need. Therefore, for everyone’s personal benefit, the idea must be disconnected from divisive political discourse.
I write this column because I internalized The Nature Principle instinctively when I was young and it continues to imbue my life with meaning. I hope to impart some of my love of nature to my readers and to share the natural beauty that I find right here in Wauwatosa. Sometimes it’s just a “walk in the park,” but I also try to find the places that are wilder and less frequented. It’s reassuring to know that we have such places.
Two sets of photos today show these two sides of nature: A little-traveled segment of Underwood Creek is about as wild as Wauwatosa gets, but even the very popular and highly trafficked Hoyt Park provides scenic views that transport me out of the stresses of everyday life.
From The Nature Principle: “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.”