Do you ever pause to consider the changing society we live in today? I can now look back over my life and see dramatic adjustments in how our lives have changed, both good and bad. The majority of our population has become urbanized and we are rapidly losing our opportunities to observe and connect to the natural world. Urbanization concentrates people in metropolitan areas where the jobs are more prevalent and services more available. It is now common-place for both spouses to pursue careers, complicating family relationships particularly, for children. School children now must face the issues of school security, discipline and drugs. Management of employees now requires different considerations as the mobility of two career families is now limited, if even possible. The reliance on computers and smart phones has reduced the personal interaction between people and the need to learn by observation and experience. Probably, the most critical change has been the concrete jungle of city life that has removed our daily connection to the natural world and our appreciation for the life sustaining relationships we share with this world.
Many of our urban adults can still remember their connection to rural life during their early childhood or visits to their grandparents that might have lived in rural America but, what about today’s children? I talk to young folks that have no idea as to how the local grocery store shelves get stocked and where that food comes from. We talk about what children need in their development such as food, shelter, love, security, etc. but, usually overlook the need to connect with the natural world. My concerns with the science of forestry led me to a deeper understanding of the connections we share and depend upon with the natural world and the desire for a more in-depth knowledge of the story of creation. It is apparent, we are losing our intimate relationship and appreciation for the natural world and life sustaining elements provided only by this world.
A few highly qualified education experts are beginning to recognize the importance of experiencing nature in child development. Research has demonstrated experiencing the natural world aids children in their intellectual, social, physical and emotional development. The professional literature states that nature’s experiences can reduce stress, improve creativity, provide more positive relationships with others and improve concentration. There are indications that spending time in nature reduces symptoms of attention deficit disorder and improves problem solving and observational skills. There is no question that eliminating a child’s opportunity to experience nature will result in major changes in how that person will relate to and value the natural world in adulthood. The responsibility is not just with our educators but, also requires the help of parents. When is the last time your child told you that trees can talk or rocks can feel? The magical wisdom of children is amazing! Today, we know trees can communicate with each other and maybe with humans through bio-rhythm’s, and rocks feel the effects of weather and deteriorate into soils providing life for millions of organisms on our planet. Everything is connected and children growing up without a connection to the natural world can develop fears and prejudices against our natural surroundings. Linking the story of creation and the multitude of relationships within the story, to modern scientific knowledge is essential to future management of our natural world.
I am truly concerned with the changing life styles of our people and the education of our youth for the future! Environmental education is critical but must transition from a scientific course to an ecological presentation that identifies and creates an appreciation for shared relationships. Our youth need to spend time outside in at NATURE! Our entire Universe functions through relationships that were designed into the creation of this World! The future of humanity depends upon educating our youth to understand and respect the relationships required for continued life on Earth!