No Politician Left Inside

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When stuck inside, attending endless meetings under low ceilings, bathed in artificial light, sipping from styrofoam cups, our brains and bodies physically change. We become mushy, shadows of our former selves. Forty-five lyrca-bound morning minutes on a treadmill can slightly delay the inevitable. But over time, capacity for creativity, empathy and compassion become stale. Our vision narrows. The vast natural world is reduced to cells in an excel spreadsheet or lines in a budget.

Adult-Onset Nature Deficit Disorder (AONDD) sets in.

Ecopsychologists list cynicism, depression, apathy, anger, and anguish as just some of the cognitive states and emotions associated with estrangement and dissociation from nature. Sound like you, your boss, or coworkers? Sound like any elected officials you know?

Now consider that many elected officials who suffer from AONDD also make daily decisions that decide the future of the natural world around us, our health and well-being, as well as that of future generations.

Many of these individuals were once perhaps in love -- deeply in love -- with nature. As children and as young adults they made time to creatively play in and explore the outdoors, which offered a range of cognitive benefits.

Research increasingly shows that cognitive performance in a variety of areas, not to mention empathy and compassion, are enhanced after short amounts of time spent outside in motion. In particular in "wilderness" or natural settings.

To cut right to it, let's share some of those neurological benefits with our elected leaders by initiating a volunteer-based "No Politician Left Inside" program. Taking congressmen on some long hikes in our National and State Parks or congresswomen on open water swims in our National Marine Sanctuaries might do our nation good. The program would cost nothing and at the very least reduce the costs of health care we provide for those who serve the country in the nation's capitals.

Submit your "No Politician Left Behind" pictures or stories in the comments. We'd also like to invite architects, artists, designers and others to submit drawings, blueprints, or representations of the Capitol Building and White House that have been re-designed to include nature, and to prevent AONDD. Leave links to them in the comments, and we'll post our favorites in a subsequent post.

(Wallace J. Nichols, Research Associate, California Academy of Sciences and Jake Dunagan, Research Director, Technology Horizons, Institue for the Future)