Nature-Deficit Disorder

Timothy Egan, who writes ”on American politics and life, as seen from the West,” has a great Opinionator piece in The New York Times this week. Here’s an excerpt:

Something’s amiss. A third of all American adults — check, it just went up to 35.7 percent — are obese. The French don’t even have a word for fat, Paul Rudnick mused in a mock-Parisian tone in The New Yorker last week. “If a woman is obese,” he wrote, “we simply call her American.”

And, of course, our national branding comes with a host of deadly side effects: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer. Medical costs associated with obesity and inactivity are nearly $150 billion a year.

This grim toll is well known. Cripes: maybe surgery is the answer, or a menu of energy drinks and vodka (the Ann Coulter diet?). Count the calories. Lay off the muffins. Atkins one week, Slim-Fast the next. We spend more than $50 billion on the diet-industrial complex and have little to show for it (or too much).

But there is an obvious solution — just outside the window. For most of human history, people chased things or were chased themselves. They turned dirt over and planted seeds and saplings. They took in Vitamin D from the sun, and learned to tell a crow from a raven (ravens are larger; crows have a more nasal call; so say the birders). And then, in less than a generation’s time, millions of people completely decoupled themselves from nature.

There’s a term for the consequences of this divorce between human and habitat — nature deficit disorder, coined by the writer Richard Louv in a 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods.” It sounds trendy, a bit of sociological shorthand, but give the man and his point a listen.

Read the entire article in The New York Times.