Synopses & Reviews
Why Children Need Wild Places
In this unique collaboration, two naturalists ask what may happen now that so many more children are denied exposure to wildness than at any other time in human history.
"This thoughtful presentation, testifying to children's need for direct contact with nature, has value for parents and those who work with children." -Publishers Weekly
In this unique collaboration, naturalists Gary Nabhan and Stephen Trimble investigate how children come to care deeply about the natural world. They ask searching questions about what may happen to children denied exposure to wild places - a reality for more children today than at any time in human history. The authors remember pivotal events in their own childhood that led each to a life-long relationship with the land: Nabhan's wanderings in the wasteland of steel mills and power plants of Gary, Indiana, and in the Indiana Dunes; Trimble's travels in the West with a geologist father. They tell stories of children learning about wild places and creatures in settings ranging from cities and suburbs to isolated Nevada sheep ranches to Native American communities in the Southwest and Mexico. The Geography of Childhood draws insights from fields as various as evolutionary biology, child psychology, education, and ethnography. The book urges adults to rethink our children's contact with nature. Small children have less need for large-scale wilderness than for a garden, gully, or field to create a crucial tie to the natural world. Nabhan suggests that traditional wilderness-oriented rites of passage may help cure the alienation of adolescence: "Those who as adolescents fail to pass through such rites remain in an arrested state of immaturity for the remainder of their lives". Trimble's fatherhood leads him to question how we grant different freedoms to girls and boys in their exploration of nature - and how this bias powerfully affects adult lives. Both authors return to their experiences with indigenous peoples to show how nature is taught and wilderness understood in cultures historicallygrounded outside of America's cities and suburbs. The Geography of Childhood makes clear how human growth remains rooted, as it always has, both in childhood and in wild landscapes. It is an essential book for all parents and teachers who wonder what our children may miss if they never experience local wildlife or wild landscapes.
What may happen now that so many more children are denied exposure to wilderness than at any other time in human history?
About the Author
Gary Paul Nabhan, a MacArthur Fellow and plant conservationist, is author of Songbirds, Truffles, and Wolves: An American Naturalist in Italy, among other books. Stephen Trimble is author and photographer of many books including The People: Indians of the American Southwest.