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Miércoles 11 de Enero de 2023

Book review: Last Child in The Woods

Author: Richard Louv, Atlantic Books - By Pedro Salinas, Researcher at the Institute for Research and Postgraduate Studies, FACSALUD.

Louv begins the book by stating that camping in the garden, cycling through the woods, climbing trees, looking for insects in the garden, picking flowers from a square or park, and collecting leaves from trees in autumn were the things that essentially made up his childhood memories. However, the new generations not only do not have experiences of a close connection with nature but are also afraid of it. Based on a series of research and consistent arguments, Louv tries to show how children’s lack of contact with nature – a nature that is increasingly idealized due to the environmental conflict but distant in terms of direct contact- leads, among other factors, to epidemic childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder, isolation and childhood depression.

Last Child in the Woods is a book with a clear hypothesis: direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy child development in physical, emotional, and spiritual terms. To support this argument, Louv resorts to a series of investigations where we can conclude that nature operates as a powerful neuroregulator, especially in diagnoses linked to some degree of childhood neurodivergence.

Consequently, Louv advocates, from the earliest training, having a transversal and inclusive environmental education. An education that uses the resources available in cities or environments, such as parks, orchards, and forests, as a resource to enhance the vitality and sociability of children in green or natural environments, as a way of educating about the needs that we as a planet face in environmental terms.

Regarding the book’s contents, its entire first half operates as a kind of great denunciation against the economic, social, and cultural models that have deprived children of our time from playing in natural environments. In this case, Louv sees a total failure in one of the greatest expressions of civilization: the city. A city with no balance between natural areas and areas for housing, industry, or commerce. As a side note, it should be noted that our country faces one of the most significant socio-environmental inequalities in the OECD, taking as an example that, in high-income cities of Santiago, the number of square meters of green areas per inhabitant can be ten times greater (and even more) than the green areas per inhabitant of peripheral and low-income cities.

Certainly, Louv's book might seem like “a cry in the desert,” but it is an urgent cry and too well argued to ignore. His writing has had echoes, for example, the numerous therapeutic practices, such as "immersion baths in nature,” that have been developed in several highly technical countries like Japan. The results of these investigations seem to be consistent with Louv’s assumptions. In the last pages, the author asks us, the adults, to take responsibility for a world where children no longer run through the woods and do not know nature. A world that urgently needs, for its subsistence, that we walk again with our children’s bare feet on the grass.