From Nature Deficit Disorder to Inspiration of Nature

In this post, we want to resume a topic we talked about on the radio with Patricia Camacho which has to do with the Nature Deficit Disorder. (I’m sorry it is only available in Spanish but it is included with a brief explanation)

@_PatyCamacho introduces the theme of the Nature Deficit Disorder with the Director of the International Observatory on Values and Education in Humanity, the OveHum. Gonzalo Torquemada gives us five guidelines to favor the relationship with our children, and prevent an inappropriate use of new technologies, encouraging further contact with nature.

Nature Deficit Disorder

The nature deficit disorder started to be known by the public in 2005, when Richard Louv published: “Last Child in the Woods”. This book was preceded by a study made in England in 2002, which showed that 8-year-olds could more easily identify Pokemon characters than regular insects, animals, or trees. In its original conception the book intended to be a kind of manual to maintain contact with nature. Today it has become a movement that many parents and educators are following because they realize that it is necessary to re-establish links with nature.

Among other things, the lack of contact with nature contributes to the development of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) in our children, as well as increases in the symptoms of obesity and depression. Concurrently, the number of antidepressants prescribed to children has doubled in the last five years. (We already published a post about recent studies showing that the excessive use of computers ends up causing a brain development problem). This disconnection accentuates every day the excessive use we make of digital technologies. We’re constantly exposed to the screens, which make us spend more and more time inside a room, in a house or even a classroom. Concurrently, the education is also affected by this situation.

At the time of the program we thought about the convenience of publishing a post on this topic, but we wanted to have the signature of an author who stood out in that field. We found experts in the subject, but they had a too clinical or just ecological approach; far from our philosophy, with a more sociological-humanist orientation. The InterNational OveHum calls for a change in current education towards a holistic education, and also on the rising of children, in the relationships between parents and their children.

Finally we were able to contact a person who, for many years, practically all his life, has been devoted and continues to be dedicated to peace, to the harmony of the human being with nature, to a humanistic and holistic education that seeks the integral development of the child. We want to thank and welcome a person whom we consider in fact, a professor in humanity: Satish Kumar, Editor Emeritus, Resurgence & Ecologist magazine.


The word education comes from the Latin word educare, which means to extract.

If we take this meaning into account and apply it, we can conclude that when we educate, we must provide the right environment to bring out what is inside the students through their learning processes. Making an analogy with nature, it is like when you have a seed, and from that seed a tree comes out. The seed contains the tree. You just need to have the right conditions for the seed to become a tree. In this case, each student is the seed.

The problem is that in the West we think that education consists in filling the minds with things. Thus we dedicate all the time filling them with information until they get saturated. Even now, with accessing the Internet, it is easier to have a lot of information from outside. However, we have to think that this information is unidirectional; that is, it comes from the outside, and we forget that the seed is already there, inside the student. We forget to take care of the inside, to educate from the inside. That is why it is also very important that education includes the inside of the person, their emotions and their feelings, their relationships, with themselves and with others.

In the same way we follow the rhythm of life that is set from the outside, the big corporations, the mass media, etc. We follow quantitative and measurable objectives, but we want to measure them equally and we want to see results in a short time.

Nature has other rhythms, and she can help us to educate ourselves otherwise. We can have a lot of information about nature. We can do exams to evaluate how much we know “about” nature. But to move from the acquisition of information, to education, it is necessary to learn “from” nature. In this way, nature herself acts as a teacher.

“Nature is the greatest teacher”, my mother used to say, “even greater than the Buddha”.

I would question that statement and ask her, “How can anyone be greater than the Buddha? The Buddha was the greatest teacher of India.
Then my mother would say, “So where did the Buddha get his enlightenment?”
“While sitting under a tree! I would say.
My mother would say, “There you are, he got enlightenment while sitting under a tree because he learned from the tree that all life is interdependent and interconnected”.

This conversation with my mother has stayed with me forever.
The book of nature is the greatest book and outdoors is the greatest classroom but in our modern education children suffer from a nature deficit disorder.

Often children become bored receiving stale, irrelevant and unnecessary information.
From this approach we can link to cross-curricular learning about art, science, music, geography. This is why I think every school in the world must have a garden. They have playing fields, sports halls, and science labs then why not gardens? If children plant the seeds and see the miracle of seed being transformed into plants, flowers, and fruit they will experience the process of transformation.

But in addition, you can learn about the values we currently have in society, and the values we want, as well as the necessary changes. Thus nature becomes the source of inspiration for the learning process. In this process we can improve human relations, especially between parents and children. They can go out together to explore nature, they can learn together, seek her secrets. It is necessary to improve the quality of the time we spend with our children, and nature provides us with the perfect environment and conditions. In nature we can learn about the relationships we have with the environment and realize that everything is connected, that we are all part of a unit.

To conclude I could say,

Nature will bring health and happiness. When children are exposed to nature they will begin to love nature and protect nature. Therefore nature studies and nature experience should be an integral part of every curriculum and syllabus.

As we do this, we will not only be changing education and improving parent-child relationships. We will be actively involved in that change. We will be the change we want.

As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

Author: Satish Kumar, Editor Emeritus, Resurgence & Ecologist magazine

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