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Nature Deficit Disorder

Dr. Helen HullWhen a neighbor remarked about the luck of having a fig tree growing near her home, Dr. Helen Hull was startled. She'd never noticed the abundance of figs filling the tree's branches.

The experience inspired her to focus more on the natural world for the first time in years.

"When I was in college I spent my junior year abroad in France, and my host family lived on a farm," she remembers. "It was a vastly different lifestyle than I'd experienced as a suburban girl from Atlanta. Until then I thought cherries just came out of jars and were bright red like maraschinos."  In the French countryside, she picked cherries for the first time with the children in her host family. Yet despite the rich experience, she got busy with graduate school and teaching. She says she literally forgot to "stop and smell the proverbial roses for a long time."

Hull is an assistant professor in the English Department. For the past three years, she has led English composition students on a similar journey-hoping to spark a lifelong interest in the environment through a course called "Nature Deficit Disorder?"  The class explores how changes in society over the last century have distanced Americans from nature. Students are challenged to explore potential costs to health, well being and identity caused by the transition from an agrarian society to an urban one, a change that brings an ever-increasing demand for a higher standard of living.


The Mountains of California, John Muir

The Gift of Good Land, Wendell Berry

High Tide in Tucson, Barbara Kingsolver

The Road, Cormac McCarthy


Research a contemporary environmental issue and explain the viewpoints of the various parties.

Write a narrative essay about a way in which you changed as a result of an experience in nature.

Examine and reflect upon the photography of Ansel Adams and the paintings of North Carolina artist Elizabeth Ellison.

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