Wetlands and Wonder

[MUSIC] Julia McCarthy: When I was growing up, since as
far back as I can remember, I had this tremendous
opportunity right outside my back door . . . this big opportunity to explore the streams and the wetlands and the field right behind my house. The wetlands and everything there had this
timeless quality . . . the awe and the wonder of what I had as a child
growing up is still in my heart. My opportunities as a kid
to explore nature around me have really been a strong
driver in what I do today as a wetlands scientist. Joan Almon: Traditionally, children were able
to go out their door and play in the streets, and there
would be an empty lot near by, and they would create their
own games in nature . . . but it was almost at their door
step, and that’s how humanity has grown up, with
nature near by. Well, so many children now are growing up with
almost no exposure to nature, especially we are
thinking now of urban children, who are deep in urban
communities where there is not even a little pocket park
near by, let alone a lot that’s been allowed to grow up
wild, where the child can explore and imagine all
sorts of things. And they need that. Robert Michael Pyle: That’s the extinction of
experience; it’s the loss of common things, leading to a
lack of caring of what’s out there, leading to a lack of
action to protect what’s left, leading to more losses. So, it’s a dire cycle of loss begetting loss. Extinction of experience is not only the loss of the opportunity to have such experiences, but it’s the loss of desire to have such
experiences. Richard Louv: Nature deficit disorder is not a known medical diagnosis; perhaps it should be,
but it’s not. What it is, is a kind of shorthand to describe
what many of us have felt has been going on for a
long time, which is the disengagement of children from
nature, and the implication of that in terms of health. Robert Michael Pyle: When the diminished
baseline goes to the extent that there is really nothing that piques your interest, nothing that catches your
curiosity, that’s when we become that much more vulnerable to the blandishment and the seduction of the
strictly virtual. That’s my real fear, with the extinction of
experience, that we’ll become satisfied with the virtual. Julia McCarthy: People my age, my friends and
my family, we can’t live without technology. We’re so
connected all the time, with our cell phones and our
IPods, with our internet connections and our laptops, and I find it really funny sometimes to think
that we’ve traded our connection with nature, and the
time that we have to spend in nature, with this need
for connection with each other and with technology. Joan Almon: And many people are deeply
concerned that if children don’t develop that relationship with
nature when they’re young they will not have it when
they’re older. And they will not be on the front lines
protecting nature. Julia McCarthy: In the last 200 years, we’ve
lost about 50% of the wetlands in the continental United
States. Historically, a lot of this wetland loss that
has occurred in this country has been due primarily to
agriculture and agricultural development. In the last 10
years or so, we’ve really seen a shift, where the majority of
the losses now are because of urban and rural
development. So, a lot of growth in these areas, a lot of
building up and a lot of building out. Wetlands provide a
lot of functions and benefits in the world that we live in. They’re this interchange between the land
community and the water community, and because of that
they have a tremendous biodiversity. They also provide
flood control and reduce the amount of erosion we have in our
communities, and they’re good filterers of pollutants from
our environment. Richard Louv: What if a child has never gotten
their feet wet, and their hands muddy? What if they’ve never
stood in water and watched the life swirl around their legs? What if they’ve never experienced the wind above them in the trees, in solitude? What if they’ve never really touched nature? Does nature then become a sea otter on a tee
shirt? About which they will care, they will care about
the sea otter abstractly, but in truth we need to be
immersed in nature. We need to know it with all of our senses if
we’re to care about it. Joan Almon: When I was a child, I had my own
secret space for play, which many children have, and it was a
culvert that had a trickle of water coming out of it.
But to me, it was a waterfall! It was all I needed, and
I’ve just had this deep love for waterfalls ever since. If we just give children little bits, little
remnants, you know, things that an adult would just cast
away and think nothing of . . . but to a child, it’s a treasure. And it’s something that goes
deep in their soul, and lasts their whole lifetime. Robert Michael Pyle: A dramatically altered,
modified, diminished wetland can still provide wonder and
excitement, because even if it has, you know, just a few
aquatic insects that are the ones that really hold on in polluted conditions, it still has something. Richard Louv: That clump of trees at the end of
the cul de sac, the ravine behind a house, that can be considered nearby nature. Now, in terms of biodiversity, those places are insignificant. They’re not connected, they’re not part of wildlife corridors, et cetera, and yet to a
child, that can be the whole universe. Joan Almon: When you watch children playing in
nature, I would say nothing thrills them as much as playing with water. They just love it. It’s as if they just ingest that whole
experience. It goes all the way to their toes . . . and calms them and stimulates their imaginations
wonderfully. Robert Michael Pyle: The great thing about a
lot of urban wetlands, in concert with the basic
resiliency of nature, and a lot of the species that persist
in them, is that they are tough, they are resilient, and they are able to take and to accommodate a
good deal of the mild impact that kids bring to a site. Julia McCarthy: Urban wetlands tend to be
degraded or neglected, and they exist in this big amount of
development, and all this stuff is developing, growing up, building around them, and sometimes they get
forgotten, sometime they get neglected. And they may not
look the same way that a wetland that you see out in the wild will look, but these wetlands really provide us with a connection to nature, a
connection with something wild, that fuels our imagination, makes us want to explore, fills us with a sense of awe and wonder . . . and the best thing about these little pockets of wetland is that they’re right at
home. Joan Almon: Playgrounds are a kind of
artificial substitute for what children have always had in their
lives, which are the opportunities to play with nature
itself. And that’s what stimulates childrens’ imaginations so deeply. To create pockets of places in urban areas that invite children to play, but are still full of nature–that would be my ideal. Robert Michael Pyle: Sometimes developers and other are encouraged, or at least allowed, to go ahead and fill this wetland, if you’ll
mitigate it by creating a wetland elsewhere, and maybe there won’t be any net loss. Well, on paper it’s a pretty good idea, and sometime it probably works out well, but we often don’t look at the consequences, the unintended consequences. And loss, this is about the loss of experience— and the unintended consequence of taking that little place away from the local community can be profound. Sure, you haven’t lost net acres of wetlands, and some organisms will be able to adapt, but will the people? Will this particular organism be able to adapt to the loss of their wetlands in their
community? Joan Almon: In any urban area I know, there are
places, there are pockets, there are remnants of nature that can be cultivated and nurtured. And again, especially, I would say pockets that have water in them. Richard Louv: There is a way to kind of
reimagine the kind of neighborhoods that families would grow up in in the future, but not necessarily use that as an excuse to have more sprawl . . . but rather to redevelop where we are living, to create higher density and more nature at the
same time. When I was a young boy, I spent a lot of time in
the woods. There was an old pond down in those woods, and the dam had been broken and it was basically a
swamp, and I spent a long time along the edges of the
swamp . . . and I can still smell it. And it didn’t smell great–but it smelled
wonderful! It was a wonderful place, and I can still, to
this day, remember walking along it and seeing at dusk a great blue heron lift up off the edge of that
water, and then fly off across the dark trees. Robert Michael Pyle: You don’t conserve what
you don’t care about. You don’t care about what you don’t know. You know, whats a condor to a kid who never even knew a wren or a magpie? Joan Almon: It’s really important that they have access to water where they are, if at all
possible, nearby. If there pockets of wetlands in their
neighborhood, they should be protected. Robert Michael Pyle: My hopes with the
recognition of nature deficit disorder, in concert with some attention to the extinction of experience, are that we will recognize those dangers, and we’ll take steps (as has been done in the urban
wetland in which I am currently perched) to protect some of these places. And the other thing that gives
me hope is that the impulse remains in the
children. The children will be there for the places, if the places are there for them. Julia McCarthy: Preserving and protecting the remaining wetlands that we have in our
communities is really a matter of seeking out these places, finding out what wetlands exist near your home, near your work, or near your school . . . finding out who owns these parcels, who might be developing on them, what type of access there
is, and what we can do as citizens to clean them up, to make them more functional, more beautiful places to be, and also to protect them from other development that is going on in the area.

Comments 6

  • Anyone interested in coastal restoration efforts should get involved with America's WETLAND: Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana. The foundation works to raise public awareness of the impact Louisianas wetland loss has on the state, nation and world and to gain support for efforts to conserve and save coastal Louisiana. Check out the video "Washing Away" and support AWF by subscribing to the channel "marmillionco."

  • Now the EPA is using the "wetlands" excuse to take away land from people, even if there is not water on their land at all. Look it up for yourself.


  • 3:25 Umm, how do we know how much wetlands there were in the US 200 yrs. ago?

  • go to metennessee dat c0m we are dealing with same issue

  • It was a good video for children's school reports

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