Nature-Deficit Disorder is a term that Richard Louv coined to symbolize the lost connection between nature and children today, and the consequences associated with this alienation. In a broader sense it signifies a social and cultural shift of an entire society that has moved away from its rural roots in search of the suburban and urban utopia, and the related consequences.
As Louv points out, ?the childhood break from nature is part of a larger dislocation ? physical restriction of childhood in a rapidly urbanizing world, with nature experience a major casualty? (35). The term sounds just like another disorder newly diagnosed by our medical community, and in doing so, the author points out that nature alienation should be treated just as seriously as any other disorder would be. The term ?Nature-Deficit Disorder? itself sounds similar to a plethora of disorders already out there in our society?s medical encyclopedia, but the author uses the term to emphasize the seriousness of the consequences of the nature alienation, and the attached physical, emotional and psychological fall-outs of the deficiency. The term disorder catches the attention, and serves the purpose of conveying its importance to the members of the culture that is ?top-heavy with jargon, so dependent on the illness model?. By using the term and by providing examples to show the prevalence of the so-called disorder, the author also hints at the urgency with which the issue of nature deficiency in our children?s lives needs to be addressed.
The author provides several examples of how nature-deficiency is rampant in today?s society. Whether it is the tendency of children today to stay home and play video games than playing outdoors, the availability of various mechanical and computer gadgets at home or the parents zeal to calendar their children?s daily lives with school and extra-curricular tasks that leave them virtually no free time to play unrestrictedly, or outside factors such as land development curbing natural spaces or the urban sprawl replacing rural and natural habitats, all these are examples of how our society today is moving away from nature towards more urbanization and mechanization. It is not surprising that children who are growing up in such an environment sometimes find the indoors more attractive than the simple outdoors. The simple outdoors was where generations grew up to become self-reliant, self-sufficient, pioneering citizens of this great country. ?America?s genius has been nurtured by nature ? by space, both physical and mental? (Louv, 97).
The change in the society in the last few decades in shifting the scene of creativity and productivity from the great outdoors to the confined spaces of the indoors has been very rapid. Experts, including naturalists, medical professionals and educators are concerned about the effects of the shift in focus from hands-on experience that nurtures young talent to passive and technological learning, since it does not provide for the same experience and the same insight. As children stay home more and more, they are not only missing out on an important aspect of their learning experience, but they are also missing out on the nurture that nature provides in their emotional and psychological well-being. The consequences of nature alienation along with the rise in childhood disorders such as ADHD, are sending strong messages to the medical community as well as parents and naturalists that keeping our children away from nature is harmful, and efforts need to be stepped up to counter this phenomenon.
?Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and therefore, for learning and creativity? (Louv, 55). When children are denied of the proximity of nature, they suffer from the consequences of the ?Nature-Deficient Disorder?. It is imperative that society takes heed of this alarming trend, treat it with the seriousness of a medical disorder and provide the antidote to our children ? a rich nature experience.