Unfortunately, the future guardians of the natural world are exhibiting symptoms of a modern phenomenon known as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ (3). Children are missing out on the pure joy of connecting with the natural world like seeing their first robin or planting their first seedling. Subsequently, as adults, they lack the understanding of the importance of nature to human society.
While statistics confirm a screen-based lifestyle accounts for some of this disconnection, there are other factors at play;
- 41% of UK’s species have declined since 1970 (4) - so there’s less chance of seeing the hedgehogs your parents might have seen so frequently
- Urban greenspace has declined by 8% since 2001 (5) - there’s fewer parks, gardens, reserves and rivers to satisfy your curiosity with the world around you
- Children’s ‘radius of activity’ - the area around their home where they are allowed to roam unsupervised, has declined by almost 90% since the 1970s (3). This means children are limited to the nature in their backyard or residential complex - unaware of the beauty that awaits their inquisitive minds
- Funding to save the natural world and create new habitats has been in steep decline. In the UK, the State spent £39.5bn on defence in 2019-20 but only £1.9 bn on the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs portfolio (6)
Not all hope is lost. There is a youth movement challenging this 'Nature Deficit Disorder' and holding leaders accountable for their disregard of the environment. Led by the likes of Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin – young people are rapidly becoming exposed to the dual biodiversity and climate threats and are demanding a better future where people and planet thrive.
We recently attended an honest and thought provoking panel discussion between Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough addressing key events in their lives that inspired them to act for nature. Greta recognised ‘most people aren’t able to experience the natural world’ and suggested ‘if you’ve seen it with your own eyes, it’s your responsibility to act’. You can watch the recording of the discussion here.
At Bear, we too recognise not everyone has the opportunity or the knowledge of how to connect with nature. That’s why we are driving environmental protection through human connection by:
- engaging a new generation in conservation,
- facilitating people’s access to the great outdoors and
- promoting and sharing the mental health benefits of getting outside.
As the days get shorter, we encourage everyone to get outside. Whether you live in the countryside or in the middle of a city, take a moment to be physically present in the world around you. What can you smell, feel or see? Are there birds in the sky or spiders crawling below? If you’re not in a position to get outside due to COVID restrictions or otherwise, what can you see or hear from your window?
Let us know your experiences in the comments.
(1) New Zealand Government 2011, Benefits of connecting with nature, Wellington
(2) Whitburn J, Linklater W and Abrahamse W 2020, Meta-analysis of human connection to nature and pro environmental behaviour, Conservation Biology, vol. 34, no. 1.
(3) Moss S 2011, Natural Childhood. The National Trust.
(4) Hayhow DB, Eaton MA, Stanbury AJ, Burns F, Kirby WB, Bailey N, Beckmann B, Bedford J, Boersch-Supan PH, Coomber F, Dennis EB, Dolman SJ, Dunn E, Hall J, Harrower C, Hatfield JH, Hawley J, Haysom K, Hughes J, Johns DG, Mathews F, McQuatters-Gollop A, Noble DG, Outhwaite CL, Pearce-Higgins JW, Pescott OL, Powney GD and Symes N 2019, The State of Nature 2019. The State of Nature partnership.
(5) Public Health England 2020, Improving access to greenspace: A new review for 2020, London
(6) HM Treasury 2019, Policy paper: Spending Round 2019, London