Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder guest blogs for REI today.
Several years ago, Sally Jewell, President and CEO of REI, asked me to come to Seattle to speak at the annual gathering of the nationwide REI community. Sally and I sat on stage and talked for an hour about the importance of connecting children to nature. I already admired Sally, but as she wrapped up the morning, she spoke with deep emotion about the issue. I was moved by her words. Since then, the REI folks have done even more to forward the cause of connecting children and adults to the natural world.
This month, as part of the annual REI dividend mailing, Sally sent a special message to more than 4 million active REI members who share a love for the outdoors. “Outdoor recreation is good for all of us, physically and mentally, yet the pace of our lives and competition for our time threaten to disconnect us from nature,” she wrote. “As winter turns to spring, I encourage you to dust off your gear and get outside. Better yet, take young people with you and introduce them to the joys of nature.”
Sally advised her readership to “pick up the REI Kids’ Adventure Journal at an REI store or print it online and join the Natural Families Network” through the Children & Nature Network. To this, I’d add, please visit C&NN and download a free toolkit to help you start a Family Nature Club. Grassroots leaders and families have created over 100 Nature Clubs for Families over the past three years. Some clubs have memberships of several hundred families each. Another good resource is the Spring family activity guide from Nature Rocks.
C&NN is grateful to all of its corporate, government, nonprofit sponsors and individual friends. But today, we wish to extend this special thanks to the entire REI community—and to Sally Jewell. I’ll admit I’m not entirely objective about Sally. In 2009, she was invited, along with six other corporate leaders, to the White House to meet with the President. She brought along her REI daypack filled with copies of “Last Child in the Woods” and proceeded to hand them to the President and his staff. Being partial to that book, and its author, I was most appreciative.
So, with the encouragement of our sponsors, and the hard work of thousands, Let’s G.O.!
Richard Louv is founding chairman of the Children & Nature Network. His new book is The Nature Principle.