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The removal of nature from our dictionaries.

The word “beaver” has been removed from Oxford University Press’s Children’s Dictionaries. I heard this on Algonquin Deficit Disorder – Terri LeRoux at TEDxAlgonquinPark.


I was shocked, and then I was angry.

You can find the TEDx Talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UNIoyChaJA. But perhaps you shouldn’t watch it. You might get mad. You might walk away from it and try to ignore it – like I did. But then I had to go back to watch it in its entirety. And I’m glad I did; it inspired this blog entry, and a few to follow I’m sure.

So what if they’ve removed beaver, willow, acorn, kingfisher, heron and raven from children’s dictionaries? What’s all the fuss? In reality, each new edition of every dictionary drops dozens of words and adds a bunch of new words and phrases to better represent the current culture. You know – keepin’ up with the times. We wouldn’t want dictionaries to be missing mp3, digital, and countless other new and relevant words and phrases, would we?

And there’s the problem – relevancy.

According to Veneeta Gupta of Oxford University Press, “Changes in the world are responsible for changes in the book.” (This is when I left the TED Talk the first time.) Apparently, I’m a dinosaur. While my kids might agree with that based on my chronological age (and not the nature words I use), it scares me to think that our society is losing its connection with nature. The removal of nature-based words reflects our lack of connection with the natural world.

The Children and Nature Network, http://www.childrenandnature.org/, has been collecting and analysing lots of research. Did you know that most children can no longer identify 10 common plants and animals? If I challenged you to list a variety of tress, plants, flowers, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, you’d come up with dozens. (Some of you could likely list hundreds!) Not so for today’s youth. They can, however, identify dozens of corporate logos.

Name these brands Name these plants

So it seems that those of us who have an understanding of the ways of nature are becoming extinct. Some would argue that there is no need for concern; this is just a natural progression from total connection with nature in pre-history, through good connection during the agricultural age, to weak connection through the industrial revolution. The next logical step would be no connection to nature in our digital age.

No connection to nature means that we don’t value it. What we don’t value, we won’t protect. So if we have no connection with nature, who will protect it? Those of us who are connected to the natural world know the consequences of disconnection – environmental degradation, and the loss of the earth’s life support system. Since we rely on the natural processes of the earth for survival, we need to ensure our survival by making sure future generations value nature.

In my next blog entry, I’ll share my philosophy on environmental education for our survival.