Back to Nature in Easton

We need to get back to nature before it is too late.


We should all be grateful for positive and fortunate accidents, no matter how modest or profound and positive and fortunate are these accidents.

So on Tuesday, I am at North Easton Savings Bank, the branch across from the North Easton Post Office. And I spied on a table a book, which I picked up and inspected. Alas, this book, and the message it conveyed, provided me just the right follow up/sequel to the I wrote which was published in this space on Monday.

Yes, I am grateful for the accident.

Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder is the name of the book I discovered lying on the table at the bank. It was published in 2005, and written by Richard Louv

Last Child In the Woods is a national bestseller.

Allow me to make the connection to my Monday column and Last Child In The Woods.

Monday’s column described the negative effects on our children of overprotecting and not allowing them to take, head on, difficulty and challenges; it also talked about how in our efforts to be literally clean — you know the absence of dirt and grime — we may be making ourselves unhealthy.

In his book, Richard Louv writes about how kids today know so very little about nature, and how within the past few decades the relationship that children in America have with nature has weakened considerably.

And, please, that term — “nature-deficit disorder” — in the title of the book, is not a clinical term, nor is it one Mr. Louv wants to make so. He is not introducing this term as yet another infirmity or condition of the human animal that requires medicine and treatment, and another occasion for “woe is me” and bail me out.

What he is saying, and I agree with this so … so … so .. much, is that our children do not know nature anymore. And this hurts them; it deprives them of so much of the human experience — and it contributes to a host of negative conditions in their lives.

I am going to go over to Paperback Junction in town today to purchase Last Child In The Woods.  If it is not in stock, owner Trisha Peterson will happily order the book (at no extra charge), and it will be in within a day or two.

I know there is a lot of wisdom and a lot of valuable education in this book.

And this gets me thinking how fortunate we are in Easton — and I have expressed this notion repeatedly in this space — that we have and had so many good and hard working people in town who have focused and labored and been successful in preserving large swaths of conservation land: so much woods, fields, ponds, marshes, and rock outcroppings.

If you believe in God, we are blessed. If you don’t believe in God but nature, then we are fortunate. If you believe in God and nature, we are blessed and fortunate.

Kids just don’t even come close nowadays to knowing and experiencing the depth and breadth of nature that kids from 30 years ago or earlier knew.

And when you lose a connection to the very marrow and core of our existence, then something important has to weaken — and our souls and bodies necessarily have to be deprived.

(A note: late in December 2004, as the cataclysmic Indian Ocean tsunami that would claim more than 200,000 lives began to roll, a primitive and aboriginal tribe, the Onge, living on a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean — and a tribe which lives closely tied to nature — saw that creeks had run dry, and water had pulled away. Recognizing this as evil spirits at work, they quickly moved inland. All 96 of the members of the tribe survived the killer wave.)

Here is an excerpt from the book description on Amazon.com of Last Child In The Woods:

"I like to play indoors better 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are," reports a fourth-grader. Never before in history have children been so plugged in—and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking new work, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation—he calls it nature deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and depression.

Some startling facts: By the 1990s the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. Today, average eight-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community. The rate at which doctors prescribe antidepressants to children has doubled in the last five years, and recent studies show that too much computer use spells trouble for the developing mind.

When I was a youngin’ living on Andrews Street in North Easton Village, as I related in the column that ran earlier this week, it was just what we did — venturing through the woods and other areas, without chaperones.

During the summers, my parents signed me up for Wheaton Farm Day Camp. Great fun. Great learning. Great enrichment.

One of my fellow Wheaton Farm campers, he was a year younger than me, and he also lived in the “Village,” was Douglas Watts.

All those decades ago I remember how impressed I was with Douglas’s intimate knowledge of nature and its terms. I recall in one instance how Douglas was looking into the sky and identifying a particular type of cloud.

Today, Douglas lives in Maine, and he is a conservationist, observer of nature, and one of the most gifted nature writers out there. Really, he is mini-Thoreau, and in his blog he writes frequently about Easton and the area around Easton.

Douglas’s book, Alewife, was recently released.

Click here to be taken to Douglas Watts’s blog and to find information about his book.

Yeah, growing up in Easton was not like the Alaska backwoods, but we grew up in fairly rural community, and we got to be friends with nature.  And I loved it; I really did.

Young people knowing nature up close and personal — and understanding it — is largely a thing of the past.

(As evidence: it was a few years ago or so, and there was a night-time high school house party in Easton near the Norton line, and the Easton Police Department came in to break it up.  So, many of the kids raced out of the house and into the woods ... and ... oh, how embarassing ... some of the kids got lost, and had to dial 911 on their cell phones to make a request to have their butts saved.  What the ... ?  I won't even speak for myself, but for my buddies on this matter; and, first of all, they would have made it out of those woods in a few minutes.  And, if for some reason they got lost, well, they would die in those woods before ever calling for help.)

Love nature.  Know nature. 

It is difficult to put a value on an organization like the Natural Resources Trust of Easton (NRT Easton) and what it does to preserve nature, and help our citizenry become acquainted and reacquainted with nature.

NRT Easton’s nature camps and nature adventures keep kids tethered to a time long gone, and to the wonder and ever renewing essence of the natural world.

We need to marshal and rally a society-wide effort that is in sympathy with the efforts and mission of NRT Easton and other lovers of nature. 

We do this and we prepare for and help make possible a better future.

Sinclair September 14, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Douglas Watts could perhaps write about his late father what songwriter Dan Fogelberg sang about his father: "his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul".
Uma Hiremath September 14, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Hi Ross, Guess how you found a copy of Louv's book at the Bank? The Ames Free Library had picked that book (along with Bryson's charming 'Walk in the Woods') for an 'Easton Reads Together' initiative almost two years ago. We had over 200 programs in collaboration with NRT, the Childrens Museum and 15 other town organizations to drive home the wonderful points you make in your article and Louv makes in his book. At the end of the year, copies of the book were left at the Bank and Post Office for the message to continue. We always wondered about those books so am delighted that you have satisfied out curiosity! Thank you - Uma Hiremath
Ross A. Muscato September 18, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Thank you for the kind comments, Judy.
Ross A. Muscato September 18, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Nice. Thanks, Sinclair.
Ross A. Muscato September 18, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Hi Uma -- thanks for the comment. I did not know that book was there as a result of an Ames Free Library initiative. And I wish I had talked to you before writing the column, because I most surely would written about the collaboration of the library with the NRT and the Childrens Museum, and the other organizations. Well, I will have to write about that soon in a column. Ross


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