WHEN Patrick Barkham’s first book, The Butterfly Isles, was published in 2010, critics hailed it as an exemplary example of the new school of Nature writing. Elegantly descriptive and personally questing, it contained truths about the outdoor world from which all readers, whether keen observers of wildlife or those with only a passing interest, could learn. Further books, such as Badgerlands and Coastlines, have consolidated his position as one of the most preceptive, balanced authors in his field. Perhaps reflecting growing anxiety about whether we can respond properly to species extinction and climate change, his latest publication, Wild Child, addresses the tragic, ongoing disconnection between children and Nature.
Laments about over-supervised children who are never allowed to stray outside or away from adult eyes have been getting louder for some time, but, as Mr Barkham writes, ‘the self-directed child, playing freely among an abundance of other animals, plants and peers, belongs to a lost civilisation’, one that he argues we’ve lost ‘in the blink of an eye’.
Not only does it leave youngsters under-equipped for developing an understanding of the natural world and, ultimately, to deal with environmental challenges, it has consequences for physical and mental health. ‘Evidence in so many scientific fields, from neuroscience to psychology, shows how reliant we are on Nature for our own good,’ he says. ‘I think part of the reason for the mental-health crisis, particularly among young people, is the disconnect with Nature.’
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October 07, 2020