Friday, March 30, 2012

Richard Louv in New Bedford, Massachusetts

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principal speak at Tifereth Israel in New Bedford. I've quoted Louv here before and strongly encourage you to read his books and check out the Children & Nature Network if you haven't already done so.

Louv had much to say in a little time but I'd like to share some of the highlights.

He wishes there were another word he could use besides "sustainability" to describe what he believes we need to do to keep nature alive and well. He feels sustainability implies stasis- maintaining things as they are. We need to do more. Conservation is no longer enough. We need to create new habitats for ourselves and for other species by re-imagining where we live. We also need to paint a positive picture of a hopeful future.

When Louv gave a talk for a group of students a while back, a young woman stood up and asked him to describe that hopeful future because she "couldn't see it." He did his best to answer. That night he worked his ideas out more and wrote an 800 word essay response.  (It will appear in the paperback version of The Nature Principle). He read it to us last night. There was no way I could get it all down, but here are a few points that really jumped out at me.

Imagine a society in which...

  • the point of education is not rote and drill learning but wonder and awe.
  • natural history is as important as human history.
  • connection to the natural world is seen as a human right.

He further gave us this question to ponder: What would it be like to live in a society that spends as much time in nature as with technology?

Toward the end he offered basic suggestions for ways all humans can reconnect with nature and create new natural places.

The simplest thing you can do right now is plant native species in your yard, rooftop garden, vacant lot next door, etc. Louv and his wife did this in their yard in San Diego to attract native species of butterflies and birds. The great part is, native species are just that- native- so they will thrive exactly where you live with little intervention from you. You don't need to have a "green thumb" to do this. Visit your local, independently owned garden center and ask for advice (not a big box home center). They'll usually be able to advise you. Some nurseries even specialize in native species.

Louv's wife had the idea that instead of giving a little jar of jam to her neighbors each holiday season they'd give neighbors a native plant. Then maybe the neighbors will do the same and soon enough they will have created a wildlife corridor right through their neighborhood, through private land.

We don't need government to act. We just need to act. Through this action, your children will see that they have the power to bring back nature.

Many thanks to the Southcoast Outdoor Network for bringing Louv to our neck of the woods and to Tifereth Israel for hosting. Louv is keeping a busy travel schedule these days so he just might turn up in your hometown. If he does, please make time to go see him.

Related Posts:
Loose Parts Play
Loose Parts Play, Part 2
Loose Parts Play, Part 3
Gardening Without a Yard
Reading the Land


  1. Great post and summary, Michelle! It was great to see you there. There is so much to think about now, and perfect: spring is here.

  2. Thanks, Susan. It was a great event- far too much was shared to really post about!

    Thank you for making Louv's visit possible.