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Nature-deficit disorder: What kids lose by not experiencing the outdoors enough
Research explains the positive impact and health benefits of children spending more time in nature.
- "Nature-deficit disorder" is the term coined by author Richard Louv, to help put a name to the ever-growing problems associated with children spending less time in nature.
- Research has provided evidence that prove Richard Louv's theories on the importance of nature to the human body and mind. This research proves a link between time spent in nature and improvements in areas such as motivation, problem-solving and self-esteem.
- There are many simple, actionable ways parents and educators of young children can incorporate nature back into the lives of children both in school and at home, such as starting outdoor playgroups or reintegrating nature into the school curriculum.
"Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart." - Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
The term "Nature-Deficit Disorder" was coined by Richard Louv, not to serve as a medical diagnosis, but to give meaning to a significant problem in modern society - the human costs of alienating ourselves from nature. There is an ever-growing gap between human beings and nature due to open green space being urbanized and large advancements in technology.
Since the term was coined in Louv's 2005 publication "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder", it has been used as a rallying point for a movement called the New Nature Movement that strives to reconnect children to nature and educate people on the health benefits nature can have on the human mind and body.
What do our children lose by not experiencing enough nature?
Multiple research studies have proven the positive impacts time spent in nature has on the growing mind and body.
Many intriguing studies on this topic provide profound insight into what children are missing by not experiencing enough nature.
To summarize, a lack of vitamin D, increased symptoms of mental health conditions such as ADHD and a lack of motivation among children who spend less time in nature are among the key concerns of researchers who support Richard Louv's theory.
An important 2008 study by Susanna Huh and Catherine Gordon has suggested a strong link between the decline in outdoor activities and the dramatic rise in vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, which our bodies produce as a response to sun exposure, is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth and can also protect against diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
According to Louv: "Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own)."
Researchers have gathered evidence that proves exposure to nature is important to the physical and mental health of children
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted another study in 2005 that focused on 255 sixth-grade students from elementary schools across California. These students attended three outdoor education programs between the months of September and November.
The study evaluated the children across eight different constructs: self-esteem, cooperation, conflict resolution, leadership, relationship with peers, problem-solving ability, motivation to learn and overall behavior in class.
The children were split into two camps: One group of students did the outdoor schooling sessions first, and the other group was used as a baseline and would do the same outdoor schooling sessions after the first program had finished.
Ten weeks after the first study concluded, the positive change in the children was very obviously noted in the post-experiment surveys, with the children who attended the outdoor schooling sessions first showing large improvements in the area of conflict resolution.
The remaining group of children who had not yet completed the outdoor schooling sessions scored significantly lower across 7 of the 8 constructs that were being measured.
The teachers of the children were also asked to submit surveys (separate from the surveys done by the researchers) about the children before and after the experiment. According to the before and after remarks of the teachers, the children who attended outdoor schooling in the first camp showed significant positive gains in the areas of self-esteem, problem-solving, motivation to learn, and behavior in class.
Along with these findings, it was also discovered that the students who attended the outdoor training sessions raised their grades in the science department by up to 27% (according to the pre-survey and post-survey answers). This increase in grades was maintained for up to 10 weeks following the program.
Another study, this time conducted in northeastern China in 2013, further supports the importance of nature in children's lives. This time, the study focused on the association between green-spaces that surrounded schools and the mental health condition of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Data for this particular study came from measuring the green spaces around the schools and two reports given at different times from the parents regarding potential ADHD symptoms in their children.
This data was collected over a span of 10 months and showed results from seven different cities. The study included almost 60,000 children between the ages of 2 and 17, from 94 schools around the country.
The results of this study showed that the levels of green-ness were linked to the incidence of ADHD behavior/symptoms in the children. Greater greenness levels around the school were significantly linked with lower odds of ADHD symptoms present in the children of that school.
How parents (and educators) can easily and affordably reconnect children with nature
There are many easy and affordable ways you can incorporate nature back into your child's life.
The urbanization of society and advances in technology (among other things) have made nature less accessible to our children. However, Richard Louv (and the researchers who have supported his theories) aren't just proving there is a problem - they are also providing communities ways to leap into action.
Parents who are looking for actionable ways to involve nature in their children's lives can do more than just let their children play outside an hour extra a day. Parents can push to become more involved in movements that place importance on nature-learning for kids, such as the Leave No Child Inside movement that has sprung up all over the United States and Canada.
Simple things such as starting an outdoor club with other parents who are interested in maintaining the connection between human beings and nature can be extremely beneficial. In Omaha, for example, a parent-lead association was created by 5 families that offer hands-on, nature-based play activities for children.
If you're an educator, one of the best things you can do to stop the ever-growing gap between our children and nature is to educate yourselves on the cognitive (and other) health benefits of allowing children to have more interactions in nature. Then share that knowledge with not just your students, but other educators as well.The Children & Nature Network site is one of the best resources for re-integrating nature back into the lives of our children, offering links to many different research papers that give you information on the benefits of unstructured outdoor play to whole curriculums that can be based on outdoor learning.
"What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology?"
- Richard Louv, The Nature Principle
- Scientists link sense of smell and sense of direction - Big Think ›
- Dealing with the emotional consequences of climate change - Big ... ›
- Ecotherapy: exploring the many health benefits of nature - Big Think ›
- Children's mental health: CDC study with surprising results - Big Think ›
- Vitamin D may lower risk of contracting COVID-19, says new research - Big Think ›
- Experiencing nature on TV/VR boosts wellbeing, study finds - Big Think ›
Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.
- U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
- Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
- While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
The U.S. Navy controls patents for some futuristic and outlandish technologies, some of which, dubbed "the UFO patents," came to light recently. Of particular note are inventions by the somewhat mysterious Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, whose tech claims to be able to "engineer reality." His slate of highly-ambitious, borderline sci-fi designs meant for use by the U.S. government range from gravitational wave generators and compact fusion reactors to next-gen hybrid aerospace-underwater crafts with revolutionary propulsion systems, and beyond.
Of course, the existence of patents does not mean these technologies have actually been created, but there is evidence that some demonstrations of operability have been successfully carried out. As investigated and reported by The War Zone, a possible reason why some of the patents may have been taken on by the Navy is that the Chinese military may also be developing similar advanced gadgets.
Among Dr. Pais's patents are designs, approved in 2018, for an aerospace-underwater craft of incredible speed and maneuverability. This cone-shaped vehicle can potentially fly just as well anywhere it may be, whether air, water or space, without leaving any heat signatures. It can achieve this by creating a quantum vacuum around itself with a very dense polarized energy field. This vacuum would allow it to repel any molecule the craft comes in contact with, no matter the medium. Manipulating "quantum field fluctuations in the local vacuum energy state," would help reduce the craft's inertia. The polarized vacuum would dramatically decrease any elemental resistance and lead to "extreme speeds," claims the paper.
Not only that, if the vacuum-creating technology can be engineered, we'd also be able to "engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level," states the patent. This would lead to major advancements in aerospace propulsion and generating power. Not to mention other reality-changing outcomes that come to mind.
Among Pais's other patents are inventions that stem from similar thinking, outlining pieces of technology necessary to make his creations come to fruition. His paper presented in 2019, titled "Room Temperature Superconducting System for Use on a Hybrid Aerospace Undersea Craft," proposes a system that can achieve superconductivity at room temperatures. This would become "a highly disruptive technology, capable of a total paradigm change in Science and Technology," conveys Pais.
High frequency gravitational wave generator.
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Another invention devised by Pais is an electromagnetic field generator that could generate "an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets." This shield could protect from threats like anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles that evade radar, coronal mass ejections, military satellites, and even asteroids.
Dr. Pais's ideas center around the phenomenon he dubbed "The Pais Effect". He referred to it in his writings as the "controlled motion of electrically charged matter (from solid to plasma) via accelerated spin and/or accelerated vibration under rapid (yet smooth) acceleration-deceleration-acceleration transients." In less jargon-heavy terms, Pais claims to have figured out how to spin electromagnetic fields in order to contain a fusion reaction – an accomplishment that would lead to a tremendous change in power consumption and an abundance of energy.
According to his bio in a recently published paper on a new Plasma Compression Fusion Device, which could transform energy production, Dr. Pais is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. Holding a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Pais was a NASA Research Fellow and worked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. His current Department of Defense work involves his "advanced knowledge of theory, analysis, and modern experimental and computational methods in aerodynamics, along with an understanding of air-vehicle and missile design, especially in the domain of hypersonic power plant and vehicle design." He also has expert knowledge of electrooptics, emerging quantum technologies (laser power generation in particular), high-energy electromagnetic field generation, and the "breakthrough field of room temperature superconductivity, as related to advanced field propulsion."
Suffice it to say, with such a list of research credentials that would make Nikola Tesla proud, Dr. Pais seems well-positioned to carry out groundbreaking work.
A craft using an inertial mass reduction device.
Credit: Salvatore Pais
The patents won't necessarily lead to these technologies ever seeing the light of day. The research has its share of detractors and nonbelievers among other scientists, who think the amount of energy required for the fields described by Pais and his ideas on electromagnetic propulsions are well beyond the scope of current tech and are nearly impossible. Yet investigators at The War Zone found comments from Navy officials that indicate the inventions are being looked at seriously enough, and some tests are taking place.
If you'd like to read through Pais's patents yourself, check them out here.
Laser Augmented Turbojet Propulsion System
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.
- How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
- One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
- Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.
A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.
- A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
- The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
- The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
Several years ago, a meta-analysis of studies on human fertility came out warning us about the declining sperm counts of Western men. It was widely shared, and its findings were featured on the covers of popular magazines. Indeed, its findings were alarming: a nearly 60 percent decline in sperm per milliliter since 1973 with no end in sight. It was only a matter of time, the authors argued, until men were firing blanks, literally.
Well… never mind.
It turns out that the impending demise of humanity was greatly exaggerated. As the predicted infertility wave crashed upon us, there was neither a great rush of men to fertility clinics nor a sudden dearth of new babies. The only discussions about population decline focus on urbanization and the fact that people choose not to have kids rather than not being able to have them.
Now, a new analysis of the 2017 study says that lower sperm counts is nothing to be surprised by. Published in Human Fertility, its authors point to flaws in the original paper's data and interpretation. They suggest a better and smarter reanalysis.
Counting tiny things is difficult
The original 2017 report analyzed 185 studies on 43,000 men and their reproductive health. Its findings were clear: "a significant decline in sperm counts… between 1973 and 2011, driven by a 50-60 percent decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand."
However, the new analysis points out flaws in the data. As many as a third of the men in the studies were of unknown age, an important factor in reproductive health. In 45 percent of cases, the year of the sample collection was unknown- a big detail to miss in a study measuring change over time. The quality controls and conditions for sample collection and analysis vary widely from study to study, which likely influenced the measured sperm counts in the samples.
Another study from 2013 also points out that the methods for determining sperm count were only standardized in the 1980s, which occurred after some of the data points were collected for the original study. It is entirely possible that the early studies gave inaccurately high sperm counts.
This is not to say that the 2017 paper is entirely useless; it had a much more rigorous methodology than previous studies on the subject, which also claimed to identify a decline in sperm counts. However, the original study had more problems.
Garbage in, garbage out
Predictable as always, the media went crazy. Discussions of the decline of masculinity took off, both in mainstream and less-than-reputable forums; concerns about the imagined feminizing traits of soy products continued to increase; and the authors of the original study were called upon to discuss the findings themselves in a number of articles.
However, as this new review points out, some of the findings of that meta-analysis are debatable at best. For example, the 2017 report suggests that "declining mean [sperm count] implies that an increasing proportion of men have sperm counts below any given threshold for sub-fertility or infertility," despite little empirical evidence that this is the case.
The WHO offers a large range for what it considers to be a healthy sperm count, from 15 to 250 million sperm per milliliter. The benefits to fertility above a count of 40 million are seen as minimal, and the original study found a mean sperm concentration of 47 million sperm per milliliter.
Healthy sperm, healthy man?
The claim that sperm count is evidence of larger health problems is also scrutinized in this new article. While it is true that many major health problems can impact reproductive health, there is little evidence that it is the "canary in the coal mine" for overall well-being. A number of studies suggest that any relation between lifestyle choices and this part of reproductive health is limited at best.
Lastly, ideas that environmental factors could be at play have been debunked since 2017. While the original paper considered the idea that pollutants, especially from plastics, could be at fault, it is now known that this kind of pollution is worse in the parts of the world that the original paper observed higher sperm counts in (i.e., non-Western nations).
There never was a male fertility crisis
The authors of the new review do not deny that some measurements are showing lower sperm counts, but they do question the claim that this is catastrophic or part of a larger pathological issue. They propose a new interpretation of the data. Dubbed the "Sperm Count Biovariability hypothesis," it is summarized as:
"Sperm count varies within a wide range, much of which can be considered non-pathological and species-typical. Above a critical threshold, more is not necessarily an indicator of better health or higher probability of fertility relative to less. Sperm count varies across bodies, ecologies, and time periods. Knowledge about the relationship between individual and population sperm count and life-historical and ecological factors is critical to interpreting trends in average sperm counts and their relationships to human health and fertility."
Still, the authors note that lower sperm counts "could decline due to negative environmental exposures, or that this may carry implications for men's health and fertility."
However, they disagree that the decline in absolute sperm count is necessarily a bad sign for men's health and fertility. We aren't at civilization ending catastrophe just yet.