The House passed the No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 Thursday, approving a program to expand grant money available for environmental education.
There's a growing concern that "videophilia" -- the tendency for children, and adults, to spend more time with electronics than with nature -- is leading to a "nature deficit disorder" that will rob future environmental efforts of a core constituency, and ultimately rob the future of environmental quality.
Why? If children don't experience the outdoors and develop a personal affection and relationship with it, they will be less likely to stand up for measures to protect the environment, and -- with research drawing clear links between environmental quality and health, economic wellbeing and global prosperity -- that could cost future generations dearly.
Beyond that, among those of us who love nature, there's a feeling that losing a connection to nature is like losing music, or art or literature. In the word's of William Carlos Williams:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there
Substitute "nature" for "poems" and the words still ring true.
The Sierra Club focuses on a more practical matters in its support of the bill:
Research shows that when children spend time outdoors, they are more physically active, engage in more creative forms of play and are better focused. Environmental education contributes to significant improvements in academic performance and motivation to learn. It also leads to student gains in problem-solving skills, conflict resolution abilities, and self-esteem. Opportunities for youth to get outdoors to exercise, play and experience their natural world are critical to help prevent obesity, alleviate symptoms of attention deficit disorders and address other related health problems.
"Todays youth will be asked to tackle severe environmental challenges as adults, yet American children are not being provided with the foundation needed to address these challenges," said Sierra Club Executie Director Carl Pope. "Environmental education today will provide the foundation necessary for tomorrows workforce to effectively address real world environmental challenges."
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