"Children Detach From Natural World As They Explore The Virtual One"
by Peter Fimrite
Yosemite may be nice and all, but Tommy Nguyen of San Francisco would much prefer spending his day in front of a new video game or strolling around the mall with his buddies.
What, after all, is a 15-year-old supposed to do in what John Muir called “the grandest of all special temples of nature” without cell phone service?
“I’d rather be at the mall because you can enjoy yourself walking around looking at stuff as opposed to the woods,” Nguyen said from the comfort of the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall.
In Yosemite and other parks, he said, furrowing his brow to emphasize the absurdly lopsided comparison, “the only thing you look at is the trees, grass and sky.”
The notion of going on a hike, camping, fishing or backpacking is foreign to a growing number of young people in cities and suburbs around the nation, according to several polls and studies.
State and national parks, it seems, are good places for old folks to go, but the consensus among the younger set is that hiking boots aren’t cool. Besides, images of nature can be downloaded these days.
It isn’t just national forests and wilderness areas that young people are avoiding, according to the experts. Kids these days aren’t digging holes, building tree houses, catching frogs or lizards, frolicking by the creek or even throwing dirt clods.
“Nature is increasingly an abstraction you watch on a nature channel,” said Richard Louv, the author of the book “Last Child in the Woods,” an account of how children are slowly disconnecting from the natural world. “That abstract relationship with nature is replacing the kinship with nature that America grew up with.”
A lot of it has to do with where people live - 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, where the opportunities for outdoor activity apart from supervised playgrounds and playing fields are limited.
But Louv said the problem runs deeper. Wealthy suburban white youngsters are also succumbing to what he calls “nature deficit disorder.”
“Anywhere, even in Colorado, the standard answer you get when you ask a kid the last time he was in the mountains is ‘I’ve never been to the mountains,’ ” Louv said. “And this is in a place where they can see the mountains outside their windows.”...