Monday, 14 May 2012

Nature deficit disorder

The environmental benefits of re-connecting people of all ages with the natural world, come from greater understanding of and respect for the environment. To make that connection meaningful requires personal experience. We are familiar with ‘armchair travel’ documentaries and have watched as wildlife photographers take us down the Zambezi River. What we miss with the virtual experience is the smell of the earth, the taste of the fresh berries, the feel of the sun warming our back.

People value special places, care for them and in so doing care for themselves and those around them. When we re-connect with Nature we re-connect our communities, get active, get healthy and we all benefit. With pressing environmental concerns adding to physical and mental health issues it’s time to re-connect, build the linkages, value our varied skills and work together. Health practitioners need to work with  landscape professionals, who in turn must work to support the efforts and initiatives of educators, environmentalists, academics, local communities and their representatives.

The problems and possible solutions described in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods are not unique to New Zealand, USA or any other country. They are problems now spread across the world. There has never been a better time to think global, act local. The challenge is to do it with shrinking funding. That’s where the benefits of connecting professionals and budgets become tangible. My measly budget added to your measly budget makes a bigger budget. Together we can achieve more, avoid doubling up of services, capture a wider ‘market’ to provide the natural connection opportunities sustainable communities need.

Nature deficit and sustainability are about more than just the planet’s resources, the community of birds and the trees; it’s also about the health of the people who live there and their hopes for the future. The web of life connects us all. When we destroy a part of the web we destroy a part of ourselves, whether through depression, rickets, obesity or disease.


  1. Love the post Gayle-how are you? How's the studying going?

    I love the line about people valuing special places-I'm trying to convince some staff at present that if we want children to look after nature they have to actually appreciate it first, and to do that they need to experience it-by immersing themselves in it, not by watching it on a screen!!

    1. Hi, Thanks for the feedback. I'm great thanks - I have delayed study for the moment as I grapple with a new book proposal. It will be a text book for educators, health care providers and designers to reference when they are building a case for a special space. Sounds like you need it now! The book will end up informing my PhD as I will have done a major part of the research, so it all links together nicely.

      If you need any assistance with convincing staff, get in touch through the website or directly gayle @ I have just completed a sensory garden for a large children's centre in Peterborough. Their client group is particularly 'needy', both adults and children, so the nature experience had to be carefully designed. It is a community asset designed to break 3 generations out of a cycle of misfortune and misadventure (aka, crime, drugs and violence)We worked hard to build their case.