The dangers of nature?

Exploring the leaves ©Janet Allen
Our youngest grandson exploring the leaves

People often focus on the "dangers" of children being outside rather than the multitude of benefits.

Two things, among many others, people fear are poisonous plants and bee stings.

Poisonous plants

Pokeweed ©Janet AllenPokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is one of many poisonous plants

As parents of very young children, we tried not to plant plants known to be poisonous—which include both native and non-native plants—but there's no way you can avoid them all.

We believed that the best protection was to first closely monitor really young children (which must be done anyway) and then, as soon as they could understand, teach them that some plants will make them sick and to not ever put any plant in their mouth without asking us—even in the vegetable garden.

Rhubarb ©Janet Allen
Rhubarb in our edible garden

(There are poisonous parts to some edible plants such as rhubarb leaves, or even the edible part itself, such as lima beans, which can be toxic until cooked.)

Just as we couldn't ban all cars from the streets around us or other dangers of modern life, we couldn't ban all poisonous plants from our yard. Teaching them about the dangers of both was the best protection.

Bee stings

Child and bee ©Janet AllenOur grandson inspecting a bee

People get crazy about bees and try to ban them from their yards. A child might get stung!

Bee stings can indeed be painful, but the pain does go away. Fear of bees can be lifelong. The good news is that most bees are more interested in foraging than in stinging.

If kids are outside, there will come a time when they do get stung. As a child, I once landed in a yellow jacket nest, receiving dozens of stings. It certainly was painful! But it didn't lead to a lifelong fear of bees, for which I am grateful.

If someone is deathly allergic to bee stings, caution is necessary, but for most people, this isn't an issue.

The bigger issue

Mini-golf injuries ©Janet Allen
Our then-teenage daughter's stitches and bruises from falling over a miniature golf course rock

No one wants a child to get hurt, but our society doesn't hold the human world to the same standards as we do the natural world.

How many people tell children they can't play sports because they might get hurt?

How many people don't let their children ride in cars?

Both of these activities result in more deaths and injuries than is caused by bee stings, poisonous plants, or other natural dangers.

Our third grandson ©Janet Allen Our third grandson will be less than 20 in 2030 — when global warming and other environmental challenges will become even more severe

So many people insist that nature be risk-free, yet they nevertheless spray poisons all over their lawn, around their yard, and in their home. They serve food laden with antibiotics, pesticides, and other toxins.

We're so comfortable with what humans create that we accept those very real dangers—dangers that are likely much greater than any the natural world presents. Our fear of nature stems from our modern unfamiliarity with the natural world.

Our children's and grandchildren's future depends not on our man-made stuff but on inheriting a living planet. Their generations' ability to create a sustainable world will be rooted in their connection with the natural world.