(Guest Post) Curing Nature-Deficit Disorder and Saving the Planet: Is there a connection?

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Today’s post is the first by a guest blogger. Thanks to Muriel Vasconcellos of Finding My Invincible Summer (http://www.findingmyinvinciblesummer.info/) for offering me the use of one of her blog posts to kick off the featuring of guest bloggers. The following post first appeared on Finding My Invincible Summer on September 4, 2015.

Curing Nature-Deficit Disorder and Saving the Planet: Is there a connection?

Tom - NDD 3Many pundits agree that if we don’t heed the warnings all around us, the barriers we put up to protect ourselves against nature may well turn out to be our self-inflicted weapons of mass destruction.

I have long believed that these bastions we erect will be our undoing. Like the hapless people inside a besieged fortress in the Dark Ages, we are gradually walling ourselves off from the sources that sustain us. Eventually our supplies will run out. Since we can’t see the walls that we build, we go on our merry way, inexorably depleting the the reserves that our descendants will need in order to survive. We don’t need plagues, nuclear bombs, or meteors from afar to end the world. We wage war against ourselves every day in millions and trillions of little ways. We are the creators of our own apocalypse.

We close our doors to the outside world and huddle inside our homes, burning energy to stay alive and “comfortable” –treating the air so we won’t be inconvenienced by minor rises or falls in temperature, turning our natural functions upside-down with artificial light, nuking our food, drawing entertainment from electronically fueled sources. Every time we venture out from our homes in sealed metal boxes with wheels or wings, we expand our carbon footprint. We wantonly strip the Earth of its trees, the lungs that make air breathable. We pollute our rain, our lakes and rivers, and our oceans. We reconstruct the food that nature gives us through processing and genetic modification to the point that it is already threatening our health. We kill every creature we don’t like or think is expendable, upsetting the preordained balance.

Many have turned a deaf ear to the warnings: if it works today, who cares about tomorrow? Some of us see parts of the picture; very few see all of it. It takes education. That’s where High Tech High stepped in.TomAndJay

High-Tech High is a charter high school in San Diego. It accepts students by lottery and 98% of them go on to college. My friend Tom Fehrenbacher (on the right in the photo), who taught humanities there until his recent retirement, teamed up with biology teacher Jay Vavra (on the left) in a six-year experiment that opened their students’ eyes to the importance and meaning of nature in their lives.

Their first project was to study the Boat Channel next to the school, but when they got outdoors “they didn’t feel at home in all the sunlight and air; they didn’t want to get their feet wet.” In short, they were suffering from symptoms of nature-deficit disorder, a term coined by author Tom issue13Robert Louv in 2005 in his best-selling book Last Child in the Woods that focuses on the problems that society inherits when children are deprived of contact with nature.

By the end of the first year, the students had moved beyond their comfort zone and produced a field guide, The Two Sides of the Boat Channel, with in-depth descriptions of its wildlife and reflections on nature. The interdisciplinary project grew over the next six years, producing a total of six ever-expanding field guides that reflected their growing understanding of the ecosystem in which they were living.

Tom has written an eye-opening report on the project’s history for the publication UnBoxed, a Journal of Adult Learning in Schools. It is one of the most interesting stories I have come across in a very long time. I urge you to read it and pass it on. http://www.hightechhigh.org/unboxed/issue13/logs_from_san_diego_bay/.

About the Author

In addition to her work as an author and blogger, Muriel Vasconcellos is a translator by profession. Her translation career spans more than four decades and she has clients throughout the world. She lives in San Diego with her twin Malt-Tzu pups.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

One Response »

  1. Very nice observations. And true, too. Already, we’re looking for more planets to destroy when we’re finished with this one.

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