It can get too easy to equate “nature” with what’s in the past. If nature can’t be modern, then our only way to reconnect with it is to turn back the clock on ourselves, too (i.e., throw out the e-book, start rubbing two sticks together). Not so fast, says Richard Louv. The guy’s clearly a fan of the great outdoors (he wrote the very widely-read book Last Child in the Woods), but he doesn’t expect anyone to adopt a Luddite stance.
Back-to-nature thinking, he explained to me in an e-mail, ignores the fact that we live in a technological and increasingly urban world. Yet we need nature more than ever, to shore up every aspect of society from property values to mental health. He’s trying (in his new book The Nature Principle, and likely in his March 15 talk at The Paramount) to lay out a vision for a thriving culture that unites nature and technology in a mutually beneficial, yin-and-yang relationship.
“The ultimate multitasking,” he wrote, “is to live simultaneously in both the digital and the physical world, using computers to maximize our powers to process intellectual data, and natural environments to ignite all of our senses and accelerate our ability to learn and to feel; in this way, we would combine the resurfaced “primitive” powers of our ancestors with the digital speed of our teenagers.”
Louv’s vision is complex, running from ecovillages to “Human/Nature Report Cards,” and I can’t do it justice here. But here’s one glimpse. “Pediatricians and other health professionals are beginning to ‘prescribe’ nature. They’re partnering with park districts, writing ‘park prescriptions.’ Park rangers take on a new role as health paraprofessionals. That’s not looking backward, but to a future we’ve never had.”