In the wake of new times and modernity, our lives have changed drastically. For some of us, who are in their 40s to 50s, can still remember the time they have spent as a child, outdoors. Those were actually unstructured hours of daily life of any child, of that time. During that period of time spent outdoors, a kid unknowingly learnt loads of basic life principles. Apart from the life lessons, these hours spent outdoors, helped us keep our mental, emotional and physical states up to the mark.
What has changed now?
We remember, our elders (who could be in their 60s to 70s), scold us for spending time indoor, especially the TV time. The term idiot box, such came into existence and had acquired value in daily lives of many, those days. But still, TV time was there, so is now. What has changed in great deal now?
The massive urbanization, especially in India, is the new thing, which embarked in the journey of development. Development or the process of development or the policies made for development unwillingly made such dramatic changes in the lives of citizens that, though we know we are destroying natural world, we must be exposed more often to nature, we can’t do it. Urbanization is the real threat; we, our present days kids, and the generations to come are exposed to in great extent.
There has to be a fool-proof, long term solution to this major issue. This solution demands policy makers to think with this paradigm. However, what, as commoner, each individual, kid can do to minimize the ill-effects of this urbanization?
Before understanding what we, as an individual can do, lets first try to understand what are the actual threats we are exposed to, as an individual.
- loss of green space
- Parental fears and control
- Perceived risk of nature
- Stranger danger
- ‘Arms-closed’ conservation
These are effects and to some extent reasons to NDD!
What is NDD?
NDD is a term coined by Richard Louv, in his best seller book ‘The child in the woods’. NDD stands for Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s a disorder which, like any other disorder can be diagnosed and be cured with correct alternatives. How do we diagnose NDD?
Because nature deficit disorder is not meant to be a medical diagnosi (and is not recognized as one), researchers have not assessed the effects of nature deficit disorder. However, Richard Louv uses the term to point to some negative effects of spending less time in nature:
Children have limited respect for their immediate natural surroundings. Louv believes that the effects of nature deficit disorder on our children will be an even bigger problem in the future. “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature…has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself”. The effects from nature deficit disorder could lead to the first generation being at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Attention disorders and depression may develop. “It’s a problem because kids who don’t get nature-time seem more prone to anxiety, depression and attention-deficit problems”. Louv suggests that going outside and being in the quiet and calm place can help greatly. According to a University of Illinois study, interaction with nature reduces symptoms of ADD in children.[medical citation needed] According to this study, “exposure to ordinary natural settings in the course of common after-school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children”.Attention Restoration Theory develops this idea further, both in short term restoration of one’s abilities, and the long term ability to cope with stress and adversity.
Following the development of ADD and mood disorders, lower grades in school also seem to be related to NDD. Louv claims that “studies of students in California and nationwide show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of experiential education produce significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math”.
How to treat NDD?
In an interview on Public School Insight, Louv stated some positive effects of treating nature deficit disorder, “everything from a positive effect on the attention span to stress reduction to creativity, cognitive development, and their sense of wonder and connection to the earth”. Researchers and medical practitioners have not confirmed these effects.
A relationship between the length of time of exposure to sunlight (by being outdoors) and a lesser incidence of myopia has been observed.
In Indian context, is this threat a real one? And if yes, how do we tackle it?
Yes the threat is very much real for Indians and the generations to come. As stated earlier, we are facing it big way these days, compared to some decades before. And the reason, but obvious, is URBANIZATION.
To safeguard yourself and your kids, you must go out in the nature quite often and play freely.
Hemant S Vavale