The Value of Nature Literacy

To care about something you must first be in love with it.  All the scientific reasons and rational arguments will not substitute for love.  See a homeless person in need on the street you may very well pass them by, recognize that person as a dear relative and you will stop to help.  The same is with nature.  If you don’t love nature, you will turn your back and this planet will proceed to ruin without your concern. 

In our modern world, the majority of people don’t realize how much the earth sustains them. We have lost our connection to the earth so why bother? From all appearances, everything comes from a store.  People are not seeing the harm being done by our consumerism.  It’s a mentality of take, take, take without showing gratitude by giving back.   We are overdrawing on nature’s bank account and the debt is coming due in the form of climate change and pollution.  Thereby comes giving back. Robin Wall Kimmerer author of Braiding Sweet Grass calls this reciprocity.  Reciprocity comes with education. According to her:

it worries me greatly that today’s children can recognize 100 corporate logos and fewer than 10 plants. That means they’re not paying attention.

Having a connection to nature is essential to our well being. Both children and adults are suffering from a condition coined by Dr. Richard Louv, “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

…nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world.”

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto on

What to do?  The easiest place to start is by paying attention to the plants around you.  When I taught environmental science to 6th graders it was very important to me that they learned…

  • The difference between a native and non-native plant
  • The difference between a deciduous and a coniferous tree
  • 10 native plants and how to identify them. 

 Just like when you get to know the name a new acquaintance, you can establish a relationship with plants. You can greet them on a walk like friends rather than an anonymous patch of green. There are all kinds of resources out there- mostly written with children in mind but also applicable to adults such as Beyond Ecophobia by David Sobel.  It’s easier than you think.  Just get outside and start paying attention to leaves, bark, and flower differences.  Learn one new plant a week. Use a magnifying glass.  For a basic primer on learning about plants go here. Look at this as a new journey. Enjoy the ride.

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