No Child Left Inside: Economist on National Parks


Ansel Adams: El Capitan and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, CA

One would think that with growing environmental awareness and the rise of the green movement, TreeHuggers everywhere would be flocking to national parks. In fact, over the last ten years attendance at Yosemite has dropped 17%, Death Valley at 28%, and camping and back-country trips are down 24% overall. The Economist says " The importance of this decline can hardly be over-estimated for big environmental organisations such as the Sierra Club: they have depended on what one expert calls "a transcendent experience in nature", usually in childhood, to gain new members and thus remain powerful lobbyists for environmental causes."

"The political implications are enormous," says Richard Louv, a writer whose most recent book, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder", describes the social, psychological and even spiritual ramifications of a dearth of outdoors experience for a generation raised on electronic, rather than natural, stimulation and entertainment."

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has had its "Ranger Rick" magazine and education programme for children in place for 40 years, but Kevin Coyle, the group's vice-president for education, thinks that the declining interest in the outdoors has spurred a feeling of urgency among environmentalists. "There won't be a conservation movement 30 years from now if there's no love for nature," he says. ::Economist