Guest Post: Emilian Geczi on Richard Louv

In anticipation of best-selling author Richard Louv’s upcoming talk for FRW, we invited our good friend and esteemed colleague Emilian Geczi to submit a guest post on our blog about the significance of Louv’s writings to him and his work.  Enjoy!

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Emilian Geczi on Richard Louv

Like many conservationists, I came across Richard Louv’s writings well after reading the works of Thoreau, Leopold, Carson, and others who popularized the environmental cause in the United States. Louv, like his predecessors, has been able to strike deep chords by utilizing an accessible, almost poetic, language to describe our relationship to the natural world. I read these authors’ works as much for their message as for their expressive and lyrical style.

But there was something about Richard Louv’s writings, particularly his Last Child in the Woods, that set him apart from most other nature or environment writers I had read. American environmental ethics and nature writing are largely discourses between individuals and nature, or individuals and the land. Aldo Leopold, for example, went to great lengths in A Sand County Almanac to argue that people are part of a larger natural community and that the land is entitled to ethical considerations as much as our fellow human beings are. This land-based ethic has been a powerful force for positive change ever since.

But this conceptualization of our role in the world has its weaknesses. The land, for example, is an alien concept to many youth growing up in our nation’s cities. For many – too many! – Chicago high school students who participate in service learning trips at local forest preserve sites, the trips are their first experience of a safe, green space where they can explore, laugh, discover, unwind.

Richard Louv points to a different and complementary ethical philosophy: an intergenerational ethic where the focus shifts from the relation between the individual and the land to the relation, mediated by the land, between a child and a parent figure. What are the outdoor experiences that you remember fondly from your childhood? What outdoor family traditions – picnicking, hiking, fishing, gardening – do you hope to pass on to your children? These are the kinds of questions that Louv asks us to consider. Our family practices and cultural heritage become as important in this conceptualization as the land, and this allows conservation organizations to engage new and non-traditional allies in their work: libraries, faith and community service organizations, health agencies, and others.

I draw on Richard Louv’s philosophy every day in my work at Chicago Wilderness. Our member organizations’ Leave No Child Inside programs are predicated on the value of childhood experiences in nature, not just to children’s emotional, social, and physical development but to nurturing the next generation of conservation leaders and supporters. The Leave No Child Inside initiative’s premise is that our children will not become the next Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, or Henry Thoreau unless they have fun outside with a parent, grandparent, teacher, or other adult role models while growing up.

Emilian Geczi coordinates the Chicago Wilderness Leave No Child Inside initiative. He works with environmental, educational, faith-based, and other organizations to support programs that connect children with the outdoors. He has an M.S. degree in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. To learn more about the Leave No Child Inside initiative, visit the kidsoutside.info website or contact Emilian at emilian.geczi@chicagowilderness.org.

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Friends of Ryerson Woods is thrilled to offer our supporters and the residents of our region the opportunity to hear from acclaimed author Richard Louv, who coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder.” His ground-breaking bestseller, Last Child in the Woods, linked the lack of nature in children’s lives with the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression. This galvanized an international movement to reconnect children with nature.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Louv discuss his new book, The Nature Principle, which offers a new vision of the future, in which our lives are as immersed in nature as they are in technology. This event is presented in partnership with the Institute for Integrated Environmental Education, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest Open Lands and Liberty Prairie Conservancy.

An Evening with Richard Louv

Friday, April 20

7:30 p.m.

Prairie Crossing Charter School Gymnasium

1531 Jones Point Road, Grayslake

To sign up for this FREE event, click here.

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April is National Poetry Month

“A poem begins with a lump in the throat.”  Robert Frost

Were you aware that April is National Poetry Month, a month-long celebration designed to increase the visibility of poetry and poets in our culture?  As an organization that celebrates the intersection of art and nature, we wanted to offer a few ways for those interested to further explore nature poetry.

Orion is celebrating National Poetry Month a special curated selection of poems that will be updated daily.  Visit their website daily to see their selections, or get poems delivered to you by following Orion on Twitter or Tumblr.

From one of our favorite poets:

This is My Letter to the World

By Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.

Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Emily Dickinson was an American poet who lived an introverted and reclusive life. Thought of as an eccentric, she was known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Although a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime.

Friends of Ryerson Woods is increasingly interested in exploring how nature and culture are linked.  As such, we recommend Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry by Camille T. Dungy published by the University of Georgia Press in December 2009.  Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated.   It features poets including the writers Harryette Mullen, Ed Roberson, Evie Shockley, Natasha Tretheway, Camille Dungy and Al Young.

Just as nature is too often defined as wilderness when, in fact, nature is everywhere we are, our nature poetry is too often defined by Anglo-American perspectives, even though poets of all backgrounds write about the living world. By creating an anthology of nature poetry by African American writers, poet and editor Dungy enlarges our understanding of the nexus between nature and culture, and introduces a “new way of thinking about nature writing and writing by black  Americans.”— BOOKLIST, starred review

You might enjoy viewing this video from the Black Nature: A Symposium on the First Anthology of Nature Writing by African-American Poets at The Berkeley Institute of the Environment in 2010.  They read from their work and participate in a discussion on the literary and environmental issues raised by the new anthology.

A closing poem in celebration of the trees that define our landscape here at Ryerson Woods.

TREES

By Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I THINK that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

“Trees” was originally published in Trees and Other Poems. Joyce Kilmer. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1914.  Best known for this poem, Joyce Kilmer was killed in action during World War I while serving in France on July 30, 1918.