By GABRIELLE GLASER The Oregonian
WE'VE ALL SEEN the magazine covers and television shows
about American children and their adult pressures: They
spend too much time on the computer. They're too overbooked.
They have too much homework and not enough exercise. Toddlers
get flashcards, third graders get sports tutoring and
middle schoolers with an eye on college get double-time
As we enter a new school year, we take stock of the future
- our kids. Somehow, despite all the pressures, despite
the slashed school budgets, the looming threats of drugs
and Internet predators, kids in the Pacific Northwest
still have the chance to be kids just a little bit longer
than those elsewhere. Here in the Northwest, children
still climb trees. They ride their bikes, walk their dogs.
Fourth graders still have fun playing hide-and-seek. A
good deal of time - with parents, friends and classmates
- is spent outdoors.
Here, nature is not an abstraction. You don't have to
travel to see it - it's all around us. Of course, there
are computer camps and weight-loss camps, but is it likely
many other states have summer camps for kids interested
This year, author Richard Louv made news with his book
"Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From
Nature-Deficit Disorder" (Algonquin, $24.95, 336
pages). Nature, he argues, offers healing for children,
but especially those living with grief.
"Unlike television, nature does not steal time, it
amplifies it," Louv writes.
John Milton, the 17th-century English author, wrote of
a "wilderness of sweets." In the Northwest,
children can partake of it: by hanging out on sunny summer
afternoons; in the bite of a crisp Hood River Valley apple;
in an outdoor classroom.
This tableau stands in contrast to a study published last
year by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that kids'
average weekly electronic media exposure is almost 60
hours - more time than most parents spend at work. Another,
by UCLA, found that families are in such constant motion,
from school to work to games to errands, they don't have
time just for playing in the backyard.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last
year that Oregon was the only state in the nation that
wasn't getting fatter (though our jogging trails and bike
lanes don't make us too superior; 21 percent of us are
So, then, a challenge for the coming year, and those beyond.
Here in Oregon and Washington, let's make a point of understanding
and deepening the link between our bodies and the nature
that surrounds us.
Let's keep our children moving. Let's make sure they have
recess and time to play outside. Time to learn about and
appreciate the natural abundance all around us. Some day,
it will be their turn to be this land's stewards.
Gabrielle Glaser: 503-221-8271 firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Published: Sunday January 1,
2006 - Reprinted by Permission