Book Review: The Nature Principle by Richard Louv

The Nature Principle by Richard Louv is not just a repetition of his counsel from The Last Child in the Woods.  Instead, he focus on the benefits that adults can receive from nature therapy, and highlighs our responsibility to make this happen in our homes, community and world.  His basic thesis is stated within the first pages:

Our sensitivity to nature, and our humility within it, are essential to our physical and spiritual survival.

His book is divided into four parts.  In the first part, he states his case for the advantages being in nature brings to our mental and physical health.  Secondly, he discusses how we can bring nature into our home and family life.  Then he looks at our cities, and how nature can be brought close to home.  Lastly, he takes the long view of finding occupations in natural therapy and designing cities with nature incorporated in the design.

Since I live in small town Utah, and am not politically active, the last portion of his book was not as interesting to me as it might be to someone living in a big city.  The idea of mixed use neighborhoods and pocket parks is quite interesting to me, and if I were forced to move into a city I would definitely look for such a neighborhood to live in.  Until that time, however, I found very little in the last portion of the book which I will be able to use now.

One statement I did find interesting was about the office workers who work inside buildings with few windows or many cubicles.  He states that there are legal statutes which would prevent a zoo from keeping animals in such conditions, but nothing protects humans from this.  He also quotes Thomas Berry, a researcher and writer of the book The Great Work, who stated, “A degraded habitat will produce degraded humans.”  It made me think about the way an animal in poor zoo conditions prowls or loses hope.  Isn’t that what we see happening in big cities:  gangs are animals on the prowl, which eventually lead to depression and death for so many?  In that way, this reading related to my recent reading about the projects, and made me agree that the solution for many inner city problems may be more exposure to the natural world.

I had never really considered windows as a way of being exposed to nature, although the first thing we do in the morning is open the blinds so that we can let the sunshine in.  We often visit homes where the blinds are left closed all day, and we say, “It feels like your eyes are poked out!”  Even being able to see trees, birds flying by, or the sun, moon and stars out the window are restorative as we live in accord with nature and our own circadian rhythms.

Another important point Mr. Louv makes is the availability of nature in our own yards and gardens.  While I usually want my nature exposure to be more expansive (think–miles from a highway), even bird feeders or vegetable gardens in our own yards can be helpful in making our connection with nature.  That daily connection may be more helpful in the long run than occasional longer trips to the outdoors.  For children, an adult to introduce them to the joys of gardening may be all it takes to establish a relationship that will last a lifetime.  In fact, Mr. Louv encourages grandparents to help in establishing this relationship, since they usually remember a time when children were allowed more freedom and independence in the natural world.

This book gave voice to many of the feelings I have had about the importance of exposing ourselves and our children to nature.  Two of the areas I intend to focus on in adding nature to our daily life are:  bringing nature inside through house plants and working more in the garden with my children to add to our nature therapy.  I have also considered how I might invite other families to join us in our outdoor adventures.  Although one of my favorite things about our time outdoors is the solitude, perhaps even once a month or three times a year, we might be able to help others to get outdoors as well.

Have you read this book?  What were your thoughts on it?  Do you have a special way you incorporate nature therapy into your life?  Please leave me a comment.

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