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Clint Eastwood hosts a Children and Nature Workshop

California and Nevada Fish and Wildlife Service – June 27, 2007
By Scott Flaherty

CNO External Affairs

California Workshop Examines Barriers and Solutions to Reconnecting Children With Nature

A cross-section of California’s leading home builders, developers, doctors and educators joined federal and state resource managers, including Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett and author Richard Louv, for a one-day workshop June 27 in Carmel, Calif., that examined solutions to a growing disconnect between children and nature.

The Children and Nature Workshop was organized by California and Nevada Operations Manager Steve Thompson and hosted by film actor and director Clint Eastwood at Tehama Golf Club in Carmel. The workshop included formal presentations by Mr. Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and Dr. Claude Arnett, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Vaya Mental Health Resources in Sacramento, Calif.

Louv presented findings and research from his book that illustrates how children are becoming less involved in the natural world, and the potential impacts this trend will have on the health of society. Arnett spoke to attendees about how attachment disorders are impacting children and their relationship with nature. “Children are losing early connections with their gifts (nature) and as adolescents find it difficult to build relationships. They’re afraid to try anything new and are become addicted to technology for comfort,” Arnett said.

In his brief remarks to the group, Clint Eastwood told the group, “This is an idea (reconnecting children and nature) that’s long overdue. We probably won’t get through all the barriers and solutions today, but we can start.”

Following presentations, the attendees broke into small working groups facilitated by a CNO representative. Each group was tasked to examine the issue of children and nature, identify barriers and provide functional solutions to problems within their areas of expertise.

Developers, for example, examined ways of designing communities that would incorporate more parks and natural areas and provide better access to those areas for residents. “We have to provide an environment where our kids can become healthy and strong,” said Angelo Tsakopoulos, a real estate developer in Sacramento. Calif. “The people who build communities, doctors, educators and the people who work with natural resources must work together to find solutions."

State and federal land managers cited existing programs at parks and refuges that introduce children to nature, but voiced concerns that nature is fast becoming a far off destination due to rapid development. “We’re not talking about where to find nature on vacation, but rather where to find nature after dinner,” said Jon Jarvis, regional director of the National Park Service's Pacific West Region.

Deputy Secretary Scarlett recalled the passion of conservationist Aldo Leopold, who call for a healthy environment cared for by a nation of citizen stewards. “This means our children need a connection with nature if they are to realize that same kind of passion,” Scarlett said.

“We were incredibly fortunate to have key leaders from the business and developer community and government regulators in the same one room talking to each other,” Thompson said. “To have them all engaged, all focused on how they can work together to reconnect children with nature made for a very successful workshop."

At the end of the day, individual group leaders reported results of discussions on barriers, and solutions. Results were captured by facilitators Toni Deery, Sam Rapphahn, Kevin Foerster, Kim Forrest, Scott Flaherty, and Angela Keister. A draft report summarizing group discussions and action items identified in the workshop was created by External Affairs and distributed to attendees for additional input and comment June 29. A final report on the workshop will be produced in the coming weeks.

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