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Josh Blank makes a case for children enjoying nature

By Maria Saporta

Last Tuesday night, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation invited Richard Louv: author of Last Child in the Woods, as one of its guest speakers.

Louv made a convincing case about how our children are suffering from “nature deficit disorder” as our young spend more and more time with computers, televisions, video games and other electronic devices.

Unfortunately, this is not just an American phenomenon.

“In the United Kingdom, fewer than 10 percent of the kids said they played in natural places,” Louv said, adding that at our national parks, there has been a 13 percent drop in attendance since 2004. “A generation of children is being raised indoors.”

While Louv’s comments were thought provoking, the speech that stayed with me that night was the one Josh Blank gave in his introduction of Louv. Josh Blank is the son of Arthur Blank, the namesake of the family foundation. The president of the foundation is Penny McPhee.

Here are Josh Blank’s comments:

Good evening. As Penny already said, my name is Josh Blank. I’m a 7th grader at Pace Academy, and unlike most kids, I am lucky to be able to walk to school everyday. Except when it’s 20 degrees outside (then I’m not sure how lucky I am!)

Every summer, I get to go to one of my favorite places in the world, Montana. My family and I spend almost the whole summer there, and I wanted to share with you why I love spending time way out from everything, right in the middle of nature.

I love Montana because I don’t see traffic jams and buildings and pollution and trash. I don’t hear cars and trucks and airplanes.

I love how clean everything is in nature and how the air smells so fresh.

I love the Aspen trees there and how their roots are linked together like a family.

I love how their leaves make such a pretty sound when the wind blows.

When I ride horses with my friends, we play a game with the leaves. We lick a leaf, stick it to our forehead and then take off at a tope. The person whose leaf sticks the longest is the winner!

I also love going to the rock outcropping near our cabin. I make forts there with my friends. We use sticks and rocks and branches. I like working side-by-side, making something that is just ours.

Planning in nature forces me to be more creative. I can’t take the easy way out and just run to my house. I also notice things differently when I’m in the wilderness. I hear more things. I see more details. I pay more attention to my surroundings. If I don’t, I could get hurt.

Nature makes me feel happy and challenged and like I’m really living in that exact moment.

And that’s why I love Montana. I can’t imagine a kid’s world without nature.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Lisa Frank February 22, 2010 7:55 am

    Isn’t this a bizarre twist that in just one generation Josh’s love of the outdoors is now a rarity and not the norm ? A serious set-back.Report

  2. Dudley Owens February 22, 2010 5:57 pm

    Spending time in nature is one of the most rewarding and energizing moments of my life. Josh is correct in that the sounds and senses of nature enable us to become aware of the complexity of life. I can sense the smell, sound, taste, color, and fresh air as I write this.Report

  3. Alex Sprunt February 22, 2010 8:00 pm

    I also enjoy spending time in nature … in fact I currently live on 100 acres of the most beautiful property in northern NSW, Australia near a place called Coffee Camp (great name isn’t it).

    I love standing out on the veranda or at the open doorway at night, or walking outside and looking up at the stars … WOW. We are traveling through space at 180,000kph on a space ship called earth.

    We are one of over 200 billion known solar systems in our galaxy the Milky Way, and there are over 200 billion galaxies.Report


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