Kids and Nature: A Win-Win

By Tom Rowley, A Rocha USA Executive Director

Nature is good for us.

Obvious as that may be, Richard Louv’s celebrated Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder provides study upon study substantiating and quantifying the notion: Time outside engaged in nature makes us happier and healthier.

The flip side, of course, is just as obvious if increasingly ignored in our techno-saturated lives: Alienation from nature leads to a host of problems, among them “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

In turn we are (created to be) good for nature.

Again, obvious to some. Not so much to others. I’ve heard more than a few people (including Christians) argue that nature is here solely for mankind’s benefit. An all-you-can eat, cut, shoot, drill and mine buffet. And I’ve heard a few people argue that mankind is a pestilence on the planet, which must be controlled if not eradicated for other species to survive.

Both are wrong.

So says Scripture, which makes clear that humans are created in God’s image to be His loving stewards of all things that Christ created, redeemed and reconciled according to Colossians 1:15-20. And so say leaders of the environmental movement, who increasingly recognize the truth of Scripture if not its author or authority: people—the choices we make, the actions we take—represent not just the problems, but also the solutions.

Creation Care Camp in Santa Margarita, CA, photo by Ashlee Grishaber

Which just makes sense. God didn’t create a universe in which people flourish at the expense of the planet nor vice-versa.

But without a healthy relationship between people and nature, the win-win falters. And that relationship is fading—fast. As Louv documents, we, and most tragically our kids, are disconnecting from nature at alarming rates. As an example, he cites a University of Maryland study showing a 50 percent decline in the percentage of kids aged 9 to 12 who spend time outside doing the things kids have always done—hiking, walking, fishing, playing on the beach, gardening, etc. All in only 6 years—from 1997 to 2003.

Louv states it well when he writes “..the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable”, but as he notes “deficit is only one side of the coin. The other is natural abundance. By weighing the consequences of the disorder, we also can become more aware of how blessed our children can be—biologically, cognitively, and spiritually—through positive physical connection to nature.”

Nature is good for us (especially our kids) and we for it. But like any relationship it takes time and effort.


*You can help reconnect kids to nature by hosting an A Rocha Creation Care Camp at your church, school or community and by supporting it with your gifts.

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