I first became aware of Richard Louv’s work when I read Last Child in The Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, (2008). In this book, Louv explores the emerging research on the beneficial impacts of nature on the well-being of children. Louv suggests that a lack of nature connection in the lives of children is driving the increase in childhood obesity, attention deficit disorders, and depression. This book, with its foundational research, drove a movement of parents, educators, and health professional to start the No Child Left Inside Movement. The No Child Left Inside Movement seeks to enhance environmental literacy for K-12 students.
In 2020, Louv released another groundbreaking book titled, Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives―and Save Theirs. In this book, Louv explores the human-animal connection and how our experiences with other-than-human beings positively impact our lives.
Through interviews with researchers, theologians, wildlife experts, indigenous healers, parents, teachers, psychologists, Louv reveals how dogs can teach children ethical behavior, how animals in urban areas are blurring the lines between the domestic and the wild, and what role the human-animal relationship plays in our spiritual well-being. He explores urgent topics such as biodiversity, inter-species health, and unprecedented conservation practices – including the proposal to set aside half of the planet for nature and wildlife and the assisted migration of invasive species. Louv also introduces readers to pioneering biologists who practice “practical anthropomorphism” as a way to do better science, naturalists now helping thousands of people learn bird language, scientists developing new ways communicate with pets and wild animals, and animal-assisted therapists and teachers challenging the fields of mental health and education.http://richardlouv.com/books/our-wild-calling/
I have truly enjoyed reading Our Wild Calling. I am especially drawn to the section on the “Art and Science of Communicating with Other Animals”, and the last section titled, “Love, Humility, and Principle of Reciprocity”. In these sections, more than some of the others, Louv explores the connection between humans and other beings. He does this by telling us the stories of people who are using their connection to nature to positively impact the world.
In the chapter, “In Fire and Smoke” Louv tells about his travels with Bob Shimek. “Shimek is the first Native American chaplain in the United States to be hired by a prison system” (p. 241). Shimek is bringing the traditions and practices of Anishinaabe people to incarcerated individuals. One individual that Shimek is working with commented that he had rediscovered what he had lost, and that his “aimless violence” (p. 242) was leaving him. To me this story highlights the importance of nature connection and the connection to community for our collective well-being. This story also highlights how the separation from nature and community can cause harm. In the case of the inmate, it was violence and criminal acts. For others, it could be addiction, depression, or other anti-social behaviors.
Louv has several other books that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. Vitamin N, The Nature Principle, and The Web of Life, all explore the connection between humans and the natural world. I personally think the next book on my list will be The Web of Life. In this book, Louv explores that power of oral storytelling and the need for a spiritual awareness of the outside world.
Have you read any of Louv’s work? What are your thoughts?