Richard Bateman: Kids Need the “Subtle Beauty” of the Backyard

March 12, 2011


Kids learn to love nature the same way they learn to love a friend: by getting to know it. (cc image courtesy chefranden via Flickr)

“If people develop a place for nature, all else will follow. Once you have this love, it is easy to begin a lifetime of being immersed in the natural world.” So says artist and environmentalist Richard Bateman in an interview in the Oxonian Review. The conversation touches on nature deficit disorder, kids and the outdoors, and the importance of knowing and loving the place you are in.

Bateman says:

We seem to be increasingly producing a species of young people that requires sizzle and instant gratification, which is quite literally the antithesis of nature. Their world is louder, faster, and flashier. They are engrained into this world from the earliest childhood stages, starting with seemingly innocuous daily cartoons. It makes it much more difficult for them to do these subtle things without getting bored. Learning about nature doesn’t take skill or practice—it is completely natural—but if the brain has been rewired for high speed, individuals cannot get excited about it. We need to teach kids to enjoy the subtle.

What is Bateman’s advice for the coming generation? Get out in the woods. He says:

We need to get away from a situation in which children know more about the Amazonian rainforest than they do about a nearby park or street—children need to learn about the natural elements of their neighbourhood in the same way in which they would grow to know the names of their friends. … My life has always been immersed in nature. It has been inspiring, adventurous and fun. I have been thrilled by everything from gorillas in the rainforests of the Congo to the penguins of the Antarctic. But none of these spectacular experiences has been any more enchanting than the nature I discovered as a young boy in the ravine below our backyard

Read the rest of Richard Bateman’s thoughts.


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