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Why The Young Are Not Leading The Fight Against Climate Change

Evening Edition

Richard Louv, the author of The Nature Principle and The Last Child In The Woods, talks to KPBS about climate change.

Aired 11/29/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Richard Louv, author, The Nature Principle and The Last Child In The Woods.


The Nature Principle by Richard Louv

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Delegates from 200 nations around the world have gathered in Doha, Qatar for the International Climate Change Summit. It's expected to be a difficult meeting, especially as developed and developing nations spar over extending the Kyoto Protocols to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent, from ice melts in the Arctic to the frequency of extreme weather events around the world, the resolve of nations to find ways to mitigate climate change seems to have stalled.

San Diego author Richard Louv tells KPBS one reason could be that the very people who should be agitating for solutions don't even know what the problem is because of their disconnect from the natural world.

He calls the idea "youth's nature deficit disorder."

"More than ever in history, children are disconnected from the natural world," he told KPBS. "They don't go outside much, they're on video games, they're on computers a lot, it's more and more a virtual world that they're familiar with."

He said children are also afraid of nature because we tell them repeatedly "the end is near."

"It's all about recycling, it's not about the joy of nature, it's about how we're destroying nature," he said.

The other reason youth aren't taking up the fight against climate change, he said, is because of environmentalism and journalism.

He said environmental studies students told him they have no connection to the big environmental organizations because "they're all old."

Louv said a "very hip young woman"--he knew she was hip because she had tatoos-- told him why she doesn't fight against climate change.

"All my life, I've been told it's too late when it comes to nature," she told him.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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Avatar for user 'jerzo'

jerzo | November 28, 2012 at 7:18 a.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

The natural world disconnect in the young is sad but true. When I was young, my friends and I collected insects and spiders. While my son was growing up, his friends were wild about video games. They spent much time indoors watching TV and video gaming, and this was before the internet.

My hope is that their teachers, especially the science teachers of the world, can re-engage our youth. Unfortunately many K-12 teachers deny climate change themselves, and so they are no help at all.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 28, 2012 at 8:32 a.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

JERZO is correct in his/her assessment. I don't know that "many" teachers, but certainly some.

With this issue, it is not that there is some climate change, but how much of that is man-made. Then it because a left-right political issue instead of remaining a strictly scientific one which is what it should be. And yet, one wonders if climate change is as global as the media and scientists claim it to be! Wny is it that historian Frank Tannenbaum writing in the 20s wrote that in Mexico, it either rains to much for the people to grow anything or it doesn't rain enough? When you look at Mexico's climate today, you will find them in the SAME climate conditions. Look at Durango for instance. A dry then and dry now.

On the other hand, if young people today are "up to date" on controversial issues like gay marriage, why are they not concerned about their own collective futures? But to be fair, it is human nature to be short-sighted.

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Avatar for user 'sfisler'

sfisler | November 30, 2012 at 11:32 p.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

Connecting young people to the natural world in an authentic manner is essential for preparing the next generation to develop the solutions needed - from preparing for the changes we'll experience due to climate change to ensuring sufficient resources for an ever-growing population. Rich Louv's work is important in bringing this issue to the forefront for parents, educators, and policy makers. As the director of Ocean Discovery Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering urban and diverse young people through science, I have seen (through experience and the literature) that in order for young people to be empowered to innovate and conserve, they must understand the world around them and believe that they can make a difference.

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