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Challenges to the Earth and Human Society

Challenge: Nature deprivation.

Today, few children spend time experiencing Nature and the benefits of outdoor recreation, education, and contemplation. Founder and former Director of the Children and Nature Network (C&NN) Richard Louv coined the phrase, nature-deficit disorder to describe the negative effects of reduced outdoor time on children's development. Study results published on the C&NN website show that reduced outdoor time can have serious negative impact on children's physical health and intellectual development.

Other educators, psychologists and authors, as well as The National Environmental Education Foundation--through its Children and Nature Initiative--has documented how being active in Nature makes kids healthier and more open to learning and processing new ideas.

Challenge: Lack of Biodiversity.

Without biodiversity--defined as the range of organisms present in a particular ecological community or system--the earth lacks the foundation to support a variety of insects (including bees), birds, flora and fauna that, in their collective, diverse chain of relationships, contribute to our planet's food, air, and water--elements necessary to sustain all living creatures on Earth.

Over the past 60 years, continual man-made changes to the American landscape have drastically decreased the acreage available as open space/wildlife habitat and the biodiversity that results from open space filled with native plants. Resource-intensive, emerald green lawn became the ideal modern landscape for homes, business parks, government buildings.

In the article "Gardening for Life," and in his blockbuster book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, (expanded and updated ed., Timber Press, 2009), Douglas W. Tallamy compellingly describes the serious situation that humans face because of lack of biodiversity. He offers homeowners ways to change their focus from resource-intensive green lawns to native plants, making a strong case for planting hardy, drought-tolerant native plants that support our native wildlife, and thus biodiversity. Dr. Tallamy is Professor & Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware.

Challenge: Toxic Chemicals.

Physician Diane Lewis is the founder of the Great Healthy Yard Project. Her article, "Toxic Brew in Our Backyards," (Sunday Review Opinion, New York Times, May 10, 2014) warns homeowners of the dangers of pesticides and herbicides, explaining that these toxic chemicals are unnecessary and harmful to the agricultural and landscaping workers who apply them, to homeowners and their pets, and to the insects and birds that visit the yards.

Challenge: Invasive Species.

Invasive species have taken over much of the area where native species lived. Invasive Oriental Bittersweet (above), a vine that turns woody, thickly twines around trees in the Northeast U.S., choking off their ability to grow and pulling them down branch by branch. Also, invasive species, because they aren't native to the area, don't provide food for native insects and animals. Last, and most important, invasive are incredibly difficult to get rid of because native fauna can't eat them. For example, deer eat only native species, leaving invasives to fill in when the native plants are gone.

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