March 18, 2020

The Late Dorothy Mullen on Benefits of Outdoor Activities

To the Editor:

We got the hand-washing message down: do it and do it for 20 seconds!

We got the social proximity rules knocked: avoid!

But what about the obvious flip side: if avoiding large groups is potentially lifesaving, what are we doing indoors?
Faced with such momentous shifts in social norms as school closings nationwide, isn’t it worth asking: If social proximity is our foe, isn’t the outdoors our friend?

Shouldn’t we get a gardening program and get those kids outdoors? But wait, Princeton has that!

When I started writing 20 years ago about the consequences of screen-focused childhood, I had no idea I’d end up defending outdoor education as a national defense strategy. But with more space our friend and social proximity our foe, can we please look for solutions outside — in our gardens and on our trails?

Yes, sing “Happy Birthday” while washing your hands, and model good hygiene by keeping children a safe distance from large groups. Also look outside where Mother Nature’s tender arms are wide open.

Outside we find harm-reduction solutions that reduce COVID-19 risk — with fresh air and large open spaces — all readily available, inexpensive, and practical as part of a whole-herd solution.

Dorothy Mullen
Patton Avenue

Note: The writer died on March 15 in hospice care at home, of metastasized lung cancer.