RE: [art_education] Re: - what's a "Big Idea?" Nature-deficit disorder
Honors to you, Larry, not only for your beautiful and thought provoking article, but also for the commission.
I guess I have to add that book to my reading list, too.
So much to do, and so little time.
Jan in Tampa
This past week, I had the good fortune and blessing to be honored at
our states Department of Natural Resources annual Warden convention
as an artist. I was commissioned to offer a painting that depicted
what it is wardens do.
Their guest speaker that evening, a professor, referred to a book
several times, and I was sure to pick it up at a Barnes and Nobles on
my way home. It is titled, "Last Child in the Woods- Saving Our
Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" by Richard Louv. Reading...it
breaks past several generations into that first American generation
that used nature in a utilitarian way. The second generation.. .those
born from 1946 to 1964 as perhaps the last generation to have
experienced intimate familial attachment to land and water and
romanticizing nature. Whereupon now this last and present generation
has an electronic detachment with nature. As one fourth grader
named, Paul put it..."I like to play indoors better, 'cause that's
where all the electrical outlets are!"
The author gives a good case that nature inspires creativity in a
child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.
Given a chance, a child will bring confusion of the world to the
woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the
unseen side of that confusion. Freedom, fantasy, privacy...a place
distant from the adult world...a separate peace. The gifts of nature
are to children for its own sake, not as a reflection of the
culture. Louv lists disturbing trends of today's wired generation to
some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity,
attention disorders, and depression. The first book to bring
together a body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature
is essential for healthy childhood development, and physical and
emotional health of children and adults.
Interestingly, our professor/speaker with a powerpoint more or less
demonstrated how we regard what we love with greater care, protection
and that this wired up generation is of a great concern to scientists
and naturalists. Without the connection, who is to say with what
fervor future generations will serve as stewards of the land?
When I see globalism's making a profit their chief and often only
concern, and the destruction such concern such as 70% of Beijing's
drinking water tainted and undrinkable (a concern to the Olympic
committee).. .and jobs going to countries that are not concerned with
human welfare regulations or environmental safety nor well-being;
will our future generations adapt little concern to protect what we
have here...intent to bring those jobs back at ANY cost?
As a landscape/nature painter...I have seen this romanticism of the
baby boomers that appreciate such art, but the wired up generation
shows little connection to understanding the beauty, the imagination
of being there...least not enough to demonstrate understanding that
the price to acquire a piece of art makes sense. Very simply...they
can get all of nature they want from turning on Animal Planet
station, watch "Planet Earth"...on their large screen television,
then go back to the internet or the cellphones and forget about it.
I have a feeling that the redemptive nature of art is going to be
challenged in the future to rekindle this fantasy and passion for the
outdoors before we lose all lands to development. Talk about "BIG
ideas"...I know it has me as an art teacher thinking. I recommend
getting a copy of this book...and it just seems to make sense now why
art instruction made its connection to various generations as it did
and when with philosophy and strategies to teach art changing along
the way. Problem is...as new art instruction ideas come out...if
they are seeking only to fill the classroom and assure the keeping of
teaching positions... then unknowingly and unwittingly we may be
further endorsing and feeding that which appeals and drives the
"wired-up" generation instead of being stewards, mentors and proper
care givers. A generation more attuned to sound bytes...flash,
something constantly going on...bells and whistles, losing that art
of listening, hearing, observing, going into a quiet place,
fantasizing, imagining grand things, well...they are not learning the
full measure of empowerment to appreciate art over one's life-time,
and coinciding nor are they learning to appreciate and value nature.
Artists and nature have long been friends, but even our tendencies to
embrace and chase after culture is altering that relationship I fear.
Stuff I'm chewing on right now...having not the answers, maybe
awakening to it in part thanks to my experience at the banquet this
past week. Not surprisingly wardens and naturalists seem first to be
aware of this trend...and I wonder how long before it really makes
inroads in the education setting? In reflecting.. .I have myself gone
out fishing a bit less, hiking not as much with the time I spend
nurturing my art business online, chatting and so forth. I'm
fortunate to have cultivated the habit of painting outdoors on
location...for that is some saving grace. I am thinking...I need to
check my priorities a little more.