Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2015


John Van Buren


With the rise of technology and industrial growth, people have increasingly lost personal contact with nature. This distance has led to mental and physical health problems for many people, notably children in the United States. This thesis explores the current disconnection between humans and the rest of the natural world. In particular, Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, has drawn attention to what he refers to as “nature-deficit disorder.” This encompasses a variety of observed mental and physical problems which he greatly contributes to the increasing gap between people and nature. Instead of climbing a tree or swimming at the beach, children are more likely today to be found indoors playing virtual games or watching television. Arguably consequential of these recently developed preferences are physical problems including obesity, mental ailments including autism and depression, and social and behavioral difficulties. This thesis examines the relationship between nature and human development by exploring the relevant fields of history, psychology, and education. After establishing a direct correlation between human contact with nature and these disorders, steps can be made to alleviate this ongoing problem, especially among America’s youth. With the integration of health science and environmental philosophy, public health and education should be reoriented towards nature. The government should mandate recreation time in order for children to form a personal connection with nature early in life (as pictured above from Nurture in Nature’s website), and environmental education should be part of a regular curriculum in primary public schools. By fostering a relationship with nature during childhood, many of the psychical and mental symptoms can be alleviated and environmental stewards will be created.


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