In the May 6, 2011, VOL 332 issue of Science magazine (p. 666), you will find an article entitled “Energy, People, and the Natural World” which reviews ten of the 148 films shown this March at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. Mother Nature’s Child was one of the ten films selected for review. Here is the text of the article:
“The 19th annual Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital offered a broad sample of movies on the natural world and people’s relations with it. This year, many of the ﬁlms highlighted aspects of the crucial links between energy and the environment. Audiences were often encouraged to stay afterward to discuss the ﬁlms and issues with the ﬁlmmakers, activists, and experts. Here our reviewers comment on ten.
Mother Nature’s Child. Camilla Rockwell, director. Fuzzy Slippers Productions, USA, 2011. 57 minutes. www.mothernaturesmovie.com
Play Again. Tonje Hessen Schei, director. Ground Productions, USA, 2010.80 minutes. www.playagainﬁlm.com
As a child I spent my free time climbing trees, catching insects, and exploring my neighborhood, largely only in the company of other children. Today, most girls and boys experience much different childhoods. Technological advances and increasing concerns over children’s safety have led to them spending their spare moments indoors, in front of television or computer screens, or being shuttled by adults to organized and supervised activities. A recent estimate placed the average amount of time a child in the United States spends in front of a screen at 44 hours a week and the average weekly total spent outdoors in unstructured play at less than 40 minutes. Mother Nature’s Child and Play Again explore the physical, psychological, and societal consequences of a generation of children growing up in the absence of free interaction with the natural world around them. By following organizations designed to foster contact with nature, Mother Nature’s Child leads viewers through the important impacts that free play in nature has on childhood development. Preschool children develop their senses, understanding of cause and effect, creativity, and early sense of self as they explore and interact with the natural environment. School-age children build forts to establish their independence; acquire the ability to observe, reﬂect, and make decisions; and develop empathy for other living things. As adolescents, the natural world becomes a place to bond with peers, foster pro-social behavior, and gain self-conﬁ dence and self-reliance. At all ages, contact with nature reduces aggression and improves physical health. In Play Again, we see the profound inﬂ uence direct contact with nature has on a group of adolescents whose earlier years largely lacked such experiences and whose childhoods were instead shaped by screens and media. Young teens who usually spent 6 to 15 hours a day planted in front of televisions and computers were asked to give up their screens and disconnect from their online networks for a 4-day camping trip in the woods. Through the teens’ own words and actions, we witness initial withdrawal followed by profound transformations in conﬁdence, interaction, and engagement. Both ﬁlms note important points about the inﬂ uence of the media and advertising on children’s development and desires for the future. Both pose a crucial question: Will children raised without contact with the natural world work to protect it? In the end, both demonstrate the essential fact that the risks of raising a generation of children away from nature are much larger—for the young, society, and the planet—than those that await them in the great outdoors. –Sacha Vignieri