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Nature deficit disorder and unsafe open spaces

posted Sep 18, 2012, 2:13 PM by Scott Slocum   [ updated Sep 19, 2012, 6:41 AM ]
Leave No Child Inside is a movement to reconnect children and nature, and to battle Nature Deficit Disorder. Author Richard Louv has written about it in his book Last Child in the Woods and in the popular media. A guest columnist wrote about it this month in my local paper (sorry, I haven't found it yet online).

I gained a new perspective on the problem of Nature Deficit Disorder this Winter: open spaces aren't safe.

I was walking our dogs in the open space behind our home. It's a big, beautiful, frozen marshland that's surrounded by suburban residential neighborhoods. Safe, right? Wrong. Our little dog Phillip went for a skinned carcass in a hidden body-gripping trap. He was killed in minutes, and I was helpless to save him. I'm an adult with all sorts of coping mechanisms. What if a child, out with his dog, had come upon this trap?

I couldn't imagine how anyone could do such a thing. I reported the incident to law enforcement, local and State officials who unanimously told me "that's just the way it is." I started a petition (Protection from Trapping in White Bear, MN) to begin the process of making things better, not expecting any opposition. I thought all I had to do was point out the problem, and people would see it and fix it. But no, I met an entrenched opposition that's still dead set on keeping things just the way they are.

I distributed a flyer and talked with neighbors. Several parents and one of their children told me that I should have known better than to even go out there. "It's not safe," they said.

I learned as much as I could about trapping, trying to understand the other side of the issue. Mostly, I found interchanges (some with me in the middle) in which trappers were telling "city folks" to stay home, eat their tofu, and leave the open spaces to the people who could understand them, use them "as god intended," and take proper care of them.

When I read this material about how people of all kinds need to get out more to enjoy the wonders of nature, it takes me back to the state of mind I foolishly enjoyed before experiencing this very hard reality.

There are powerful forces aligned against the message of Leave No Child Inside. They're saying "stay inside where you belong."