Recently I received letters from a class in Haiti. Their teacher had shown them some of my work on nature deficit disorder and she asked them to comment on the idea that “people who haven’t experienced nature have been robbed of a gift, kids have been robbed of part of their childhood.” Their observations were so moving, they have to be shared. These are kids from wealthy families who mostly have to stay in their own gated yards or indoors for fear of being taken.
They were mostly students from wealthy families who were vulnerable to being kidnapped. Their reality was that they have to stay indoors or behind walls to avoid being taken. Here is a small sample of some of the kinds of comments that illustrate their hope for the future.
One child said “if everyone forgets about nature, it will fall apart and we don’t want that”. Still another said I believe nature can change the world”. And one of my very favourite statements was from a boy named Jeremiah who wrote “technology is eating right through children’s minds!” One child even wrote that he envied the poor in his neighbourhood because “they get the chance to walk around to go in the woods and play with their friends outside”. Now if that’s not enough motivation for getting outdoors, I don’t know what is!
I have to tell you it took me quite a while to draft a reply to these kids. Despite the limitations imposed on them these kids had amazing insights into how the world works and insights into themselves. But more importantly they had a willingness and a hope to change their disconnections from nature. Their letters were a real education for me and served as a reminder of how all our circumstances differ and that we each have to find our own path to nature and the great outdoors.