Disorder, takes the next step and tackles
the ambitious task of mapping our way to
a more connected future.
“The most vibrant cities,” writes Louv,
“will be those that integrate the population into an urban environment enriched
by both natural and re-natured habitat.”
Louv’s optimism is rooted in the well-researched benefits of o;ce buildings built
around centralized greenhouses, neighborhoods studded with small parks, and yards
sprouting spinach in place of grass.
Putting his journalism training to good
use, Louv reports on the myriad ways contact with nature (vitamin N) improves our
physical and mental health. For example,
mice halved their time through a maze after being fed Mycobacterium vaccae, a common soil bug. (Take home message: eat
dirt.) Workers able to harvest lunch from
a garden thriving alongside the o;ce are
more productive than folks sequestered
in sterile cubes. Depressed people prescribed daily outdoor walks improved
their moods compared to patients walking
in a mall. Alzheimer patients exposed to
natural light fluctuations experienced less
agitation and wandering.
Louv enriches his journalism with personal stories. In an early chapter, he recalls
the robust garden that briefly flourished
alongside his boyhood home. The demise
of that garden and his father’s slide into
debilitating depression alerted Louv at a
young age to the dangers of severing our
contact with nature, and he draws compelling parallels between alienation from
nature in his own family and the course
of our culture.
Louv writes that it is time to “give added
focus to the intrinsic importance of the natural world to our health, our ability to learn,
our happiness, our spirits.” Ranting about
looming catastrophe or promoting the economic benefits of green jobs is not enough.
Growth of the environmental movement
requires a visceral, immediate connection
to the greater-than-human world.
“Our relationship with nature,” Louv
writes, “is not only about preserving land
and water, but about preserving and growing the bonds between us.” Louv presents
engaging stories, showing the vitality of
dozens of individuals and groups dedicated to fostering a widening awareness
of their home ground. Readers will meet
architects, professors, doctors, and neighborhood organizers dedicated to integrating vitamin N into homes, schools, clinics,
Louv is wise enough not to try and depress people into action. While acknowledging the magnitude of our separation,
he quickly gets back on the trail of possible reconnection. He manages to energize his readers by making us feel a part of
a historic, exciting movement. Although
focused on the urban world, Louv aims
to shift our concept of civilization beyond
notions of citizen and city to a broader
awareness of our place on the planet. Page
after page we learn that in working to heal
the world through restoration, we end up
— Hank Lentfer
The Chimps of
BY ANDREW WESTOLL
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
$25, 288 pages.
THIS IS A book with a
great cast of characters:
There’s Yoko, small in stat-
ure but tough and feisty.
Though a ruthless adver-
sary, he’s intensely loyal to
his friends. There’s Rachel,
who as a child loved bubble
baths and frilly dresses,
but who was abandoned by
her family at age three. Jeth-
ro is a peacemaker. Regis
loves to paint and listen to music. Chance
is nervous and cautious right down to her
taste in food; she doesn’t like hot peppers
on her pizza. Sue Ellen has a weakness
for large, bearded men.