BOOK REVIEW: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

I believe that my generation; Generation X, was the last generation in the woods. We saw the advent of the video game system and air conditioning spread through small town America like wild-fire. We had reasons to stop reading and to stop going outside to make our own adventures because both needs were met through our video game consoles in our comfortable bedrooms. Today, the issue of depressed and obese children is even more of an issue because “outside” is a scary place. Richard Louv works to displace this irrational fear.

I read this book as I am interested in parenting and nature. This book was a bit more nature than it was parenting, but still a good resource for those parents who wish to raise well-adjusted children, not television zombies.

Louv approaches the issue of how our society has left nature in many ways that include where we live to how our children play and how we view nature. He discusses how stress, depression, and obesity are up in kids, and he believes there is a direct causal relationship with our inactivity with the outdoors. Louv believes technology obviously has its place but our inclination to make everything technology driven is keeping our children (and us adults) from experiencing anything of substance. You can see a mountain stream on the screen but you can’t touch it or catch the trout that swim in its waters.

Basically, many of the ills our children experience, he believes, can be remedied by more time outdoors. There is something therapeutic about it. He even cited a study by Kapplan and Kapplan regarding Attention Restoration Therapy whereby children with ADHD were improved in their attention capabilities just by experiencing the outdoors.

Lots of his material is based on studies and in contrast, our fear of the outdoors is fed by movies and a propensity to stay inside with the air conditioner; giving no thought to what we are missing. I enjoyed his references to the Bible and how the outdoors are good for you, plain and simple. He spelled out how our behavior in the past has been bad for the environment and outlined ways you can do your part to improve our land’s future.

His political stance for the environment (in some cases) made good sense. For instance, hunters (typically not thought of as conservationists) should work together with those who want to save the land. Otherwise, there will be no place for either to go. Some of his other points were slanted towards “greener” living that in a perfect world would save energy, but in reality often do not. How does one person in a mass-transit vehicle save gas? It doesn’t. His vision of small yet fully autonomous villages for Americans to live in (food, jobs, homes, etc) seems a bit far-fetched to me, but he did have meaningful methods for seeing it through and maybe it can happen.

This is a good read if you love the outdoors, your kids, and want to see them both get together more.