Growing up outside of Kansas City, Richard Louv spent much of his boyhood roaming around with his dog in the woods by his house.
Worried about children who don't get access to nature, he wrote the 2005 book "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder." The book was a hit and was translated into nine languages and published in 13 countries.
Louv is giving a talk in San Francisco on Thursday that will be live Webcast to the Martin G. Petersen Event Center in Modesto. The Webcast is part of the program "Our River, Our Children, Our Future," which will celebrate the Tuolumne River Trust's outdoor education and adventure programs.
Louv, who was a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1984 to 2007, said that over the past 30 years, children have spent more time indoors watching TV and playing with computers and less outdoors. He believes something will be lost if children don't develop a relationship with nature.
"What happens if that window closes?" he said. "Who is going to be the stewards of the Earth?"
Louv noted that "nature deficit disorder" is a term he coined and is not a medical diagnosis. However, he said there is a lot of research showing the connection between being in nature and health.
A study from the University of Illinois showed that the symptoms of attention deficit disorder can be improved when children have interaction with nature. Other studies have shown that children play more creatively when they are in natural playgrounds with grass and trees as opposed to flat asphalt concrete playgrounds.
Louv said he is heartened by what the Tuolumne River Trust and other groups like it across the country are doing to get children out in nature. There are now more than 80 regional campaigns in North America to get kids outdoors, he said. In Orange County, there are 500 families on an e-mail list who arrange family nature play dates. Louv and others offer many suggestions on www.childrenandnature.org
on how to connect children with nature.
Perhaps in part because of these efforts to promote nature, visitations to national parks are up again after years of plummeting, Louv said. Fishing license sales are also increasing.
"It's really fascinating to see how this issue brings people together," Louv said.
"People who normally would not want to be in the same room can join together on this."