I grew up in Eastern Canada. I grew up in a small town surrounded by forests and the ocean. I grew up in nature and to this day I love nature. I suppose as a child I really took it for granted that I had beaches, craggy ocean-side rocks, forests, lakes, streams and ponds as my playground. I never realized how lucky I was until years later when I moved to the large cities of Asia. Once I lived in the rat race and was surrounded by a severe lack of nature, I realized how important it was and is to me.
I have lived in Seoul and Busan in South Korea and now I live in Kobe, Japan. At a population of 1.5 million people, Kobe is the smallest of the three cities. I suppose I am quite lucky that due to the geographical layout of Kobe, nature (Mt. Rokko) is close, but I am still in the big city. I live high up in an apartment building in the middle of the city. I long for a back yard. I long for a front yard to go with that back one! I also wish I was within walking distance of the Great Outdoors. At the moment, those are not part of my reality so I make the best of the situation. I try to run by the water when I do run and try to spend time in parks when I can. There is nature to be had within any city if you are willing to look for it!
You probably all know by now that I am a teacher. I've taught in language schools in Korea, public and Catholic schools in Canada and private schools in Japan. Schools and the students in these countries have many things in common and of course many differences as well. One common trait that all of the students I have taught (most of them anyway), have in common is the fact they have very little contact with nature. They spend the majority of their time in classrooms. They study all day and in the case of some Japanese students and most Korea, study into the night at private cram schools. They have no opportunity to have contact with nature. Their Canadian counterparts have the luxury of more free time, but choose not to go outside, glued to TV's, computers and gaming devices.
Responsibility cannot be placed solely on the gaming industry and the TV networks. Parents have a massive role to play in their children’s lack of exposure to the natural world. Recently I was listening to a radio series that David Suzuki did for CBC Radio in Canada called The Bottom Line. In Episode 10, Dr. Suzuki discusses the concept of biophilia and nature deficit disorder. It shocked me to think that a lack of contact with nature can have a series of harmful side effects on children. As I sat back and thought about it though, as someone who grew up in nature and now the teacher of many children who have no contact with it, things made sense.
Children who have more contact with nature have less trouble learning. They can focus more. They seem to have better problem solving skills and confidence. Children who have a deeper connection to the world around them respect it more and will grow up to be adults who respect it more. The problem is, there are fewer and fewer children like this. We have modern middle class parents telling their children that getting dirty is a bad thing and insects are something to be feared as opposed to examined and celebrated. We have a modern generation of parents who find it far easier to throw in a DVD or Xbox game than take their kids to a local park. We have a new generation of children who have up little connection with nature and will grow up to be adults who simply care less about it!
As a teacher and a parent I think about this a lot. It is something that bothers me more as I get to know my students, their parents and others around me. I have no plans to run out and hug a tree tomorrow, but I am a fan of nature. I grew up exploring and living within it and I hope my son (I plan on it) will have the same wonderful experiences I did as a young boy.
Reconnecting children and their parents to the natural world has become a big interest for me. I’ve decided to focus a lot of my energies in this direction. You will definitely see this theme popping up from time to time in my writings as well as my video blogs on both my BusanKevin and jlandkev You Tube channels. I’ve also decided to channel some of my social media knowledge and experience in the classroom to helping an amazing organization that makes a difference in the area I am passionate about. I plan to do my part to help the David Suzuki Foundation (based in Canada), an organization dedicated to sustainable living, protecting nature and wildlife amongst other things.
I have joined the community leadership program for the Foundation. I will try to help as best I can through my knowledge of new media and education.
Expect to see more to come!