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A couple of weeks ago the helicopters went up in the suburbs of Paris and householders were told to stay indoors. For a couple of days there was a lot of nervousness in the air. The reason! Poisonous fumes or terrorism? No, there was a tiger on the loose.
Of course it turned out not be a tiger at all. Just a large dog, probably on a lead. According to the quite aggressive writer of environmental op-eds on the environment George Monbiot, this comes down to our lack of contact with the world outside the city. Since he only allows eating meat through gritted teeth I am generally nervous of his views but in this instance I found myself agreeing with him.
As he says "over the past generation, our engagement with the natural world has collapsed. Since the 1970s the average area in which children roam without supervision has decreased by almost 90%." I attended a breakfast on this very subject some years ago at Outdoor Retailer with Richard Louv talking about his prizewinning book Last Child in the Woods. As the Audubon Society said when awarding him with the 50th Audubon Medal he "reveals a direct connection between the absence of nature in the lives of today's wired youth and its negative health and societal impacts, a phenomenon Louv terms "Nature-Deficit Disorder.""
"Louv lists the human costs of alienation from nature as including attention disorders, depression and obesity. He reveals that environmental education and direct experiences in nature have dramatic positive effects on the physical and emotional health of children, significantly improving test scores and grade point averages, and boosting skills in problem solving, critical thinking and decision making. He also shows that contact with nature can be a powerful therapy to reduce the symptoms of ADHD, negative stresses and depression. It is also well known to be an important inspiration for environmental stewardship."
In just a few years children regularly playing in wild places in the UK has fallen from more than half to fewer than one in 10. Both writers worry about the consequences for the health and well being of the planet and the generation growing up to live on it. The imagination of a tiger comes from "boredom" as well as ignorance of nature.
It also confirms an issue for us in the leather industry. With so many children not even seeing a cow in real life until well into their teenage years the simple knowledge of the origin and nature of leather that their parents and grandparents had is being lost. Talking to these deprived urban consumers when they grow up is going to be very much harder. How do you explain natural characteristics to someone who knows nothing of nature? Marketing leather just got harder.
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