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Richard Louv, national bestselling author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
A journalist who turned into an international advocate for getting children back in touch with nature, Richard Louv is the 2009 George B. Rabb Conservation Medal winner. The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, made the award announcement this week.

Louv, national bestselling author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and Web of Life: Weaving the Values That Sustain Us, will be honored during the CZS Annual Conservation Dinner on Thursday, March 19, 2009, at The Art Institute of Chicago’s Chicago Stock Exchange Trade Room. The CZS Annual Conservation Dinner is presented by the Society’s Women’s Board and sponsored by Freeborn & Peters. For further information, contact the Chicago Zoological Society at (708) 688-8390.

Calling attention to the importance of nature in healthy childhood development, Louv is co-founder and chairman of the Children & Nature Network. He has used his articles, books, and speeches to inspire a rapidly growing, national movement of parents, schools, caregivers, and communities to provide opportunities for children to play outdoors where their natural curiosity fosters a learning and appreciation of nature. His research shows that nature-deficit can be tied to disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention deficit disorders, and depression.

“We applaud Richard Louv for the difference he is making in the world by inspiring a movement that strengthens children’s relationships with nature, just as we do here at Brookfield Zoo. He has awakened the public to the importance of children having a connection with nature and to the dangers of losing that connection,” said Stuart Strahl, CEO and president of CZS. “In an age when children have highly structured schedules and more frequent exposure to computers and television than to the natural world, it is imperative to foster in children a love of nature and animals.”

In his book, Louv praises Chicago Wilderness, an alliance of more the 230 public and private organizations, which started the Leave No Child Inside regional initiative in 2007. CZS is a founding member of Chicago Wilderness and recognized nearly a decade ago that in order to care about nature, children must not just see it, but experience it. In 2001 the Chicago Zoological Society opened the innovative Hamill Family Play Zoo, one of the country’s first examples of how a zoo can create experiences for children that foster caring for animals and nature through hands-on experiences such as building animals habitats, examining animal X-rays, planting gardens, and dressing up in animal costumes. “We are continually committed to helping children develop a deeper love of animals and nature through their experiences here at the zoo,” said Dr. Strahl.

As part of the national movement, The No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act (H.R. 3036) is being considered by Congress. It passed the House of Representatives on September 19. It calls for better environmental education training for school teachers; supports planning for environmental curriculum at the local, state, and university levels; and designates federal grants to help children become more engaged in the natural world. The NCLI Act will be up for consideration by the Senate in 2009.

The George B. Rabb Conservation Medal was created in 2005 by the Board of Trustees of CZS to honor the lifelong legacy of animal welfare and worldwide conservation leadership of George Rabb, Ph.D., president emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society. Past recipients include:

  • 2008 recipient Chris Servheen, Ph.D., mammalogist and wildlife biologist at The University of Montana and the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, with more than 30 years of significant work in grizzly bear conservation. His landmark work has focused on grizzly bear ecology and conservation in the Mission Mountains and the northwestern Montana wilderness.
  • 2007 recipient Curtis Freese, Ph.D., managing director of the Northern Great Plains (NGP) program of the World Wildlife Fund, for his work in restoring and conserving the biodiversity of the North American Great Plains of the United States and Canada;
  • 2006 recipient Carl Safina, Ph.D., co-founder of The Blue Ocean Institute, for his life’s work and commitment to protecting the world’s oceans and marine wildlife; and
  • 2005 recipient Alan Rabinowitz, Ph.D., director of the Science and Exploration Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society and preeminent wildlife scientist, known particularly for his conservation and protection of big cats native to Asia and South America.