A Message from Richard Louv

This past fall, I was an attendee at the National Association for Interpretation annual workshop. Richard Louv, the author of "Last Child in the Woods", was a keynote speaker at the show. Yesterday I noticed that the organization has packaged up his keynote on DVD for purchase, and have produced this 3 1/2 minute trailer, included below. If you'd like to buy the disc, follow this link.

Louv's message is: if you find the natural world important in your life, it's probably because of experiences you have had as a kid. And so, if you want the next generation of adults to believe the natural world is important, you'd better take today's kids off their sedentary video-game-playing butts and get them running around experiencing the wonders of the outdoors, pronto!

Among people who spend a lot of time in the outdoors, it is hard to appreciate some of the things Louv found during the interviews he conducted while writing the book. What, are you kidding me, people are afraid to go outside? That can't be right, can it? I was reminded how accurate Louv's analysis was while listening to a recent audiocast from the WildeBeat. This episode reviews a program in central California called Wild Link, which has been developed to expose teens from low-income, ethnically-diverse families to a wilderness experience, like the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.

(STEVE is conducting the interview, MOTHER is the mother of Lawrence, a program participant)

STEVE: Lawrence heard about the Wild Link program from his teacher, and he was determined to go despite his mother's concern.

MOTHER: At first I was scared to let Lawrence go into the wilderness. And I felt like he shouldn't come out. I was scared that something would happen to him... And when I was at home, I was scared for him the first time, and the second time I wasn't scared at all. So I would tell the other families, trust Mandy, trust the program, it will be good for them.

STEVE: What do you think changed, if anything, about his ideas? About anything, before and after this program?

MOTHER: I think Lawrence changed a lot. Before he went out he just thought he couldn't live without some of the things he has, for example, like fast food, and when he came back, he said, "Mom, I ate oatmeal." ... So I think just his thinking of what he could survive on.

I just find the connection between Louv's writing, and the story recorded by the WildeBeat of incredible interest. The experience found in the National Parks is of utmost importance in my life. It's an experience I hope to pass to my son. But I think it's entirely possible that the outdoor experience is being lost on a whole generation of Americans.