When Richard Louv penned his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, little did he know that his phrase ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ would strike such a chord and become a modern buzzword. When did you last kick through the leaves, run your hands through the soil or watch garden birds? Well if your answer isn’t today or yesterday, then you may need to remedy that. Find out about the disorder, its symptoms and our six recommended treatments…Dr Ross Cameron of the department of landscape at Sheffield University gave a lecture at the Royal Horticultural Society in November, exploring Nature Deficit Disorder and what can be done about it. Ross believes that as urban populations increase, city and town dwellers are missing out on the emotional, physiological, and psychological benefits of engaging with the natural world, benefits that humans are hard-wired to respond to.
"As biological beings we are physiologically adapted to be in certain environments - to run, to play, to hunt, to be active basically," says Dr Cameron.
Although Nature Deficit Disorder is not a recognised medical condition, Dr Cameron believes there are a number of symptoms that come under the banner, including a lack of awareness and appreciation of the natural world, and less empathy for the plight of flora and fauna. He also believes that increasingly sedentary lifestyles and the health implications of this, including rising obesity rates, can also be attributed to a disconnection with the natural world.
So, what can be done? Ross thinks that any green environment - be it pot plants, or the weeds growing between paving stones, can play a part in healing the rift, by providing some green space that attracts wildlife and exposes people to the positive potential of the natural world. Designing appropriate green spaces within towns and cities and challenging sedentary lifestyles are part of the solution.
There are plenty of things you can do for yourself and for your children, whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours…
5 minutes: Tend to one of your house plants
Take time to really inspect the plant and marvel at its beauty. Wipe the dust from the leaves using damp cotton wool, remove any dead foliage and feel the soil, making sure it is nice and moist. Take a moment to appreciate the fact that plants like this provide the oxygen we breathe.
20 minutes: Photograph your local greenery
Make it a mission to find a green patch within 10 minutes of your own home. It doesn’t have to be a park or a woodland, just a single tree, bush or small flowerbed will do fine. Challenge yourself to take a photograph that brings out the beauty of this small green patch.
40 minutes: Do a spot of bird watching in your own garden or local park
There are an amazing range of birds that forage in our gardens and parks. Print off a simple guide to garden birds from the internet and see how many of each species you can spot within half an hour. Once you get the hang of it, why not register to take part in the annual RSPB Garden Bird Watch? It takes place in January every year, is one of the largest community wildlife surveys in the world and makes a vital contribution to nature conservation planning.
1 hour: Build a nature corner in your back yard or garden
Choose one small corner of your garden that you can leave a little wild. Make a shelter for frogs, hedgehogs and insects by stacking some old logs and leave some leaves and long grass to give nature chance to flourish. Now stand back with the satisfaction that you’ve given nature a home.
3 hours: Take a countryside walk
At iFootpath we are firm believers of the benefits of a countryside walk. Browse the iFootpath walking library and find somewhere new to explore. There are walks that will help you discover every aspect of nature, from beaches to woodlands and heaths to moorland. While walking, make a mental note of the five things you love best along the route.
5 hours: Volunteer for an environmental project
There are plenty of organisations that would love your help, be it maintaining footpaths, planting trees or restoring canal towpaths. Try the Woodland Trust, Canal and River Trust or a local group. A bit of physical activity in the great outdoors is good for mind and body, while the warmth you will get from volunteering will also feed your soul.
20 December 2016