The First Child in the Woods
Who are we? We're more than our genetic make-up. We are our experiences. And the strongest foundations to who we are were set as our early experiences. I am an outdoor writer, conservationist and lover of the natural world. Where did that come from? It was forged into my psyche as a child growing up in a small town in New Hampshire during the 1970s. My coming of life came to be during hundreds of restless days wandering down old woods roads, probing swamps for frogs, exploring old farm lands, and lying in fields staring up at the clouds. The Boy Scouts also helped get me tuned into nature.
I spent a lot of time in the woods when I was young. Unsupervised too-Gasp! It instilled in me independence, wonderment, a creative spirit, and a green bond with the natural world. If I grew up today however it just might not have turned out so well. Today's youth are being formed by their experiences inside; in the mall, in tidy urban and suburban developments where they are not allowed to play outside-and if they do venture outdoors it is never without adult supervision. I am currently reading Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods. You should too. I would hate to think that I am part of the last generation that was allowed to play free in the great out-of-doors. I would hate to think that a whole generation is growing up that has no connection (real-not scholastic) to the natural world. An entire generation of nature-disconnected urban and materialistic overloaded-techno junkies can not be good for our planet.
Perhaps too we should spend less time filling up our kids' heads with doom and gloom about global warming and rainforest destruction and show them what is happening right up the street from them-where it is real to them and they will have instant empowerment to act. Get them outside now! Let them play-let them discover-let them bond to our natural world before there is nothing natural left to it. Let them feel and understand nature before they dive into the more complex global problems our world is facing. Perhaps after they connect on a personal level-they will gain the love, creativity, and passion to make lasting changes-and more importantly, the spirit to be great lifelong stewards of our planet. I would hate to think that my childhood was merely idyllic. It was formative-it's what made me love the natural world. I dread to think that a childhood like the one I was blessed with is no longer feasible for subsequent generations. If that is true, than we face a threat far worse than climate change. We face a world of people indifferent to the systems and organisms that support us. And that attitude most certainly will not sustain us.
(Photos-Windham Rail Trail still provides a walk in the woods-Windham town hall, rural remnant in an urbanizing society)