I am positively giddy. This rotten economy is going to do something that all the well-meaning progressive programs (and/or faith-based for that matter!) could not. As the money stream slows to a trickle for most families, the idea of luxury will change. And yes, the kids will whine about it. But, this is a good thing.
Many of us perked our ears to Richard Louv and his look into the future of the “Last Child in the Woods.” I predict that the lousy economy is going to beget the “nature-child reunion” that Louv speaks so convincingly about.
When the next digital toy does not arrive to provide another 2-6 month diversion, children will seek stimulation elsewhere. Our brains are wired to want to play with new objects and figure them out. I was reminded of this over the holidays when I watched family video of my niece at age 0.8: dear baby niece was crawling through leaves, fascinated by their texture; the pebbles in the driveway captivated her attention and she spent a good 10 minutes doing the adorable baby happy-squeal as the family pug did his play-with-me romp around her. Babies just don’t need that many toys. The brain is plenty jazzed to take in the new and the novel and figure it out.
It’s not like that ever changes. We are wired up to explore nature. We are happiest when we do so. Luckily, nature is a smorgasbord of novel, amazing and astounding things to figure out. Any parent that says, “Yes,” when their 9-year old gets bored with reruns and asks if they can go out to play, is in for a beautiful surprise.
Ask any environmentalist, ecologist, geologist, biologist, physicist, climatologist, and any other “ist” that you deals with the natural world why they enjoying doing what they do, and they will invariably tell you about a special natural place from their childhood. They are now studying, protecting, advocating for, writing about, and sharing information about, the thing they loved as a child.
2009 is the year our next crop of green shoots will begin to strengthen. Their roots will go a bit deeper into the earth than the past few generations. For them, the connection between lifestyle choices, environmental health, personal health, and one can hope, social equality will be folded right into who they are.
I’m a fiction writer. I’d like to read a story that starts with millions of suburban front doors opening and blinking children stepping out and squinting up to the sky. I predict, this is the year the door open and our tender green shoots will remember they are also creatures of the earth. They will be strengthened by this. The earth will be strengthened by this.
Those of us who were lucky enough kids to get our butts muddy trying to catch crawfish, besting friends by finding more shapes within the clouds, and luxuriating in the languid rhythm of an unscheduled, unplugged summer day are now in a position to show the next generation what rich really is. Lead by example, my friends, lead by example.