I was fortunate enough to hear Bill McKibben speak last week where he was a co-panelist in an event sponsored by The North Country School and Camp Treetops. During the question and answer period, McKibben was asked by a teacher how to inspire students to care about the environment. The teacher wanted to know how we can create and inspire more people to become Bill McKibbens. McKibben essentially replied that the vast majority of the people who are doing the best work in protecting the world have a deep love and emotional tie to nature that was fostered through experience. But, he said, “You can’t get an emotional tie to the world until you feel competent in it.” He summarized, saying, to “fall in love with the world you can’t be afraid of it.”
I just began reading Last Child In The Woods by Richard Louv, who writes of our society’s “Nature Deficit Disorder.” The negative outcomes of this deficit are haunting. If McKibben and Louv are right, which I believe they are, we need to get more kids outside, and we need to start now. Too many people are afraid of the natural world, and you can’t love something that scares the bejeezus out of you. We need to give them the skills necessary for them to feel like they belong there. The wellbeing of both our souls and indeed the world’s health demand it.