By Dom Nozzi
September 15, 2000
A friend of mine recently wrote an essay called “Diversity: A Breeding Ground for Conservation Biologists.” In it, he describes his explorations and experiences in natural “woodlot” areas when he was a child.
It reminds me of my childhood stomping grounds when I was a kid, reminds me of why I originally decided to become a planner, and reminds me of a study I heard of in the past: “What life history variable, out of a HUGE number that were tested, correlate with growing up to be committed, in adulthood, to environmental conservation?”
The one variable that stood out head and shoulders above the others was: “The child was able to engage in unstructured play in some form of natural area.”
My own childhood would have been horribly disadvantaged and deprived if I did not have nearby woods within which to play. I was always able to walk or bike to those woods on my own. It would be a tragedy for us all if our children lost that option.
Tragically, in our car-happy world, kids are much more isolated and unable to explore on their own. For nearly all American children, it has become too dangerous to bike or walk to a woodlot, because nearly always these days, doing so required the child to negotiate extremely hostile, dangerous, high-speed roads.