27 April 2007

Eat Dirt

“In most highly developed countries,” she says, “children are not allowed to roam and range the way they did when I was younger. Every species requires this range behaviour, where you go further and further from the supervision of the parent. That doesn’t happen much any more. Kids are programmed from the time they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed. They’re in classes or after-school programmes; there aren’t the vacant lots where they can go and build a fort or have their own space. These no longer exist in most urban areas or people feel it’s too unsafe for their children to be somewhere unsupervised. This has changed the quality of childhood.”

The new mollycoddling can damage children’s health, she says. “Obesity, asthma and attention deficit disorder are all environmentally related. Kids are not moving and exploring, using their bodies the way they’re meant to be used – out in the world. This might sound silly but we’re eating less dirt than before. When you don’t eat dirt, your immune system doesn’t make the kind of antibodies to protect yourself from the diseases we’re seeing. So the sanitisation of the world is hurting children in insidious ways. Getting dirty, being part of nature develops healthy human beings. That’s why the garden’s important.”

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