Central to Barbara Julian’s wonderful treatise Childhood Pastorale: Children, Nature and the Preservation of Landscape, on the intrinsic value of nature, is her memory of playing freely in ‘magical’ neighborhood gardens that felt to her like being in ‘thick woods’. She “scrambled over fallen branches and rocky outcrops, dodging holly prickles” and what she pretended were poisonous snakes and spiders. All this was done right in her own neighborhood, away from the prying eyes of any interfering adults.
Julian presents arguments, in a very poignant manner, which reveal how much value civilization has lost through urbanization and the destruction of forests and green spaces. Children, she notes, have become ‘saturated’ in technology today and spend endless hours in front of TVs, computers and video games. As a result, they have lost any connection to nature, as well as to the brain and soul stimulation that come with free play in wilderness spaces. Further, she says, it is up to us to “guard, honor and preserve the places which we share with the trees, flowers, weeds, vines, mosses, grasses, insects, birds and animals.”
Barbara includes many stories and memories from those of an older generation which reveal how critically important it was for them to spend their early years in forests, on farms and at beaches.
The results from growing up in a “damaged rural environment or overbuilt urban one” are disastrous, she argues, and include obesity, attention deficit disorder, autism, aggression, anxiety, insomnia, eye strain and depression.
This delightful book also discusses how various countries have handled the spread of urbanization. Barbara Julian herself takes a strong stand on the issue of “nature deficit disorder” and advocates an active approach to stop the current trends.
She recommends we all: (1) speak up for green spaces in our own cities, (2) find out where the safest outdoor spaces are for kids to play in without parents, (3) plant trees and preserve gardens from future subdivisions, (4) lobby for zoning that preserves large lots and heritage gardens, (5) set an example by turning off our computers and getting frequent outdoor exercise, and (6) donate memorial trees for parks and boulevards to help renew urban forests.
Anyone who has sensitivity for nature or how children are growing up today will love this book. I highly recommend it.