Most helpful critical review
58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2013
I had never read Louv before; only read of him. And I always seemed to agree with his diagnoses of modern people, especially children: too little nature, too little unstructured time. I bought this book with the hope of it addressing that problem in a social, or at least personal way: what are we going to do about all this? And the introduction was promising.
Sadly, only a few sections resemble that introduction: the chapters dealing with Louv's family and personal experiences are well written and have some real force behind them. But they're only short intermissions between pages and pages of enumeration. The bulk of this book is a catalog of recent scientific experiments, most of which "hint" or "suggest" that nature is good for us in one way or another. The formula is for Louv to tell us about a scientist or institution, describe them, then describe their experiment, then meekly repeat its tentative results. Now science is supposed to be tentative, but I kept thinking (even as someone who fully believes nature is important), "That's it? That's your evidence?" The problem is, I think, the whole approach: Louv likes nature, and he's convinced that only a barrage of science will be adequate for convincing anyone else. I'm trained as a scientist, and yet I don't believe that: maybe we can just, yunno, like nature, and think it's important. Instead Louv falls into a sort of science fetish, especially around new whiz-bang apparatus like neuro-imaging (your thoughts are only valid if we can see what part of your brain "lights up" when you think them). It's all very breathless, with no end of goofy coined phrases -- like a less clever Malcolm Gladwell (who is himself not all that clever).
I don't disagree with Louv in the least. And if you want an armory of studies to throw at other people, this will certainly familiarize you with what's out there. But do I really want to value nature because "vitamin N" might improve my test performance 2%, or increase my seratonin levels? This line of thinking misses the point. And in fact, it falls into just the trap that harms nature the most: quantifying its specific functionality to us, and not actually seeing anything inherently worthwhile in it.