The troubling phrase “nature deficit disorder” entered the American vernacular in 2005 with the publication of journalist Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods,” a bestseller that argued direct exposure to nature is essential to a child’s healthy physical and emotional development.
The book came out about the time we started noticing that supersized meals lead to supersized children, too many of whom have the body fat and cardiovascular efficiency of a bulldog. Louv starts his argument with a memorable quote from a San Diego fourth-grader (“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are”) and in the years since, the author has been stumping for a national back-to-nature youth movement that rallies around the phrase “no child left inside.”
But for those of us who spend the majority of our time in the asphalt-and-electronica quicksand of modern Orange County, what Louv says about children is equally true of adults: “It takes time—loose, unstructured dreamtime—to experience nature in a meaningful way.”
Think of this month’s cover story about great local hikes [“Natural Treasures,” by Karin Klein] as a recovery guide for nature deficit disorder. We’re urging you to ditch the commuter mug for a Nalgene bottle, trade the Christian Louboutins for some Asolo hiking boots, and hit one of the local trails. We suspect the experience will lead you directly out of your rut.
Some of our featured treks, including the seaside Crystal Cove hike pictured on our cover, are accessible to just about everyone; others take you into the wild, beating heart of Orange County’s still-vast wilderness. We even include nearby places to get your carb or caffeine fix before you start walking.
But any one of our hikes can put soothing distance between you and your daily life as a freeway warrior, email mainliner, and iPhone addict. All you need are a few basic supplies, decent footwear, maybe a walking stick. You’ll feel better. You’ll look better. And at work on Monday morning, you can talk about something other than traffic and Twitter.
Martin J. Smith
Illustration by John Ueland