Are Children Suffering from a Nature Deficit?

A good article on the woodlands.co.uk blog:-

http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/woodland-activities/are-children-suffering-from-a-nature-deficit/

This is the central question in Richard Louv’s book, “Last child in the woods,” and this concern is shared by the broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. As Attenborough says, “all children start off being interested in the natural world, it’s deep in our instincts…”. Children may have theoretical knowledge but not touchy-feely experience. As Louv explains, ” children today are aware of global threats to the environment but their physical contact, their intimacy, with nature is fading.”

Nature-deficit surveys

Natural England did a survey recently in which they examined changing relationships with nature across generations and they found that fewer then 10% of children now play in natural places (such as woodlands and heathlands) compared with 40% of today’s adults who did so when they were young. The BBC Wildlife Magazine carried out another survey which found that many children now cannot identify common species such as bluebells and frogs. Other surveys show that this is not just a British problem: the American Journal of Play, surveying thousands of mothers across the world, discovered that the number of those reporting their children “exploring nature” were lowest in China, Brazil and Indonesia. Playing in wild areas has been shown to have a positive psychological impact – a National Trust survey of 3,000 adults revealed that their most prominent happy memories were of being outdoors in the natural world and a large number cited building dens as a particularly happy memory.

Causes of children being “stuck inside”
Computer games and TV are often blamed for children staying indoors but there are other factors – for example being driven to school rather than walking keeps children from the outdoors and the almost obsessive fear of abduction, which many parents have, often stops children being allowed outside. It may also be that pressure to do more and more with school and outside means that there is less genuinely free time for children when they have to make their own entertainment. At a recent woodlands.co.uk conference of owners of small woodlands it was suggested that owners should think of things for their children to do in woods, but one of the participants pointed out that once in a wood children will find their own activities and this process of discovering what’s interesting and what there is to do is itself important. Let them discover nature rather than spoon feed it to them was the message of that discussion.

What are the consequences of a “nature deficit”?

“Keeping an eye on children” is all very well but it has left a whole generation more ignorant of what goes on in the natural world and out of the habit of exploring and discovering. This has consequences for them personally including much higher rates of obesity, suffering form attention disorders and more likely to experience depression. In a bigger-picture way, though, it will surely have enormous consequences for their attitude towards nature when they grow up – if they haven’t experienced the miracles of the world around them they will be less likely to make sacrifices to preserve woodlands and wild spaces.

But all this assumes that the nature deficit is limited to children – adults surely suffer from it too. Many, many or our buyers of small woodlands give as driving motivation that they want to “get away from the screen” and get “back to nature”.

What can be done about it?
It’s hard to know how to persuade the nation as a whole to move towards more outdoor play, but individually families can choose more activities in woodlands and wild areas. There are many structured activities which get people into woodlands such as Centre Parcs holidays and “Go Ape” walkway adventures. Recent excitement about the Forestry Commission woodlands shows how much people value public spaces, even those who don’t visit very often. The threat of wholesale sell-offs has made everyone focus on how important woodlands are for our wellbeing, so hopefully the recent publicity will make people spend more time in open woodlands – whoever owns them!

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Muse

Not green in the slightest, but pretty amazing!! Went to see Muse tonight at Old Trafford.

Local Adventure 3

Went a bit further today and discovered another stretch of the Bury-Bolton canal, and a cycleway called the “Bradley Fold Cycleway” which I didn’t even know existed!

Local Adventure 2

Went for another bike ride today, this time turning West at Radcliffe and exploring a bit more of the Bury-Bolton canal, down towards Little Lever where although the canal continued, I couldn’t see a way to get through.

I had meant to go out towards Bolton a lot further, but ended up taking a wrong turn and heading back down towards Radcliffe.

Came across some interesting and pretty sights, including what looked like some kind of old steam crane beside the canal.

Jammin’

This year we got around 2 kilos of blackcurrants from the bushes in our little back garden.

We’ve turned the whole lot into delicious jam!!

Local Adventure!

Just got back from a really enjoyable bike ride! I did my normal road circuit route but instead of coming back my normal way, I joined the old Bury-Bolton canal to see where it went.

It was quite beautiful, although there was some litter in parts of the canal, other parts were quite overgrown and I saw all kinds of wildlife, and some beautiful views. For a little while I had no idea where I was going, which was really refreshing and quite an adventure!!

In the canal photo you can see Scout Moor wind farm in the background. Cycling up to the wind farm is on my hit list of challenges for the future! I think I’m going to have to get a bit fitter first though 😉

I went across a level crossing at one point too, and realised that it was on the East Lancashire (steam) Railway. I stopped on the level crossing to take a photo before I realised that the engine in the distance was rolling towards me! I moved my bike off the crossing and sure enough, an engineer got out and opened the gates, and the engine went across.

The route was about 9 miles.

Freezing Theory

Having a great time at Bearded Theory festival, or as Justin Sullivan, frontman for New Model Army had it last night, the “extreme weather festival”.

Last year the main stage was completely destroyed, and technicians hospitalised, by a freak tornado. And last night rumour has it that the temperature got down to -4 centigrade!!

Eco Footprint

I bought the “Ecological Footprint” iPhone app, which is a very rough measure of home, eating and travel habits.

It calculates my footprint at 19,773.4 square metres, or about 2 hectares.

Absolutely no idea what that means to be honest, or how accurate it is! Comments welcome!

Fun in the Sun

We are having a bit of a community fun day today in our local park, with all sorts of stuff including home made food, herb planting, face painting, information stalls about recycling and all sorts of other stuff.

The weather is amazing. April is the new June!!

Being Green . . . or not

Think you’re Green? Think again.

You may well have some low energy light bulbs, and use your dishwasher on the ‘eco’ setting. And drive at 60 in the slow lane on the motorway, and walk to the shops and the school sometimes to pick up the kids when it’s not raining. You might use eco-washing powder and only fly away on holiday once a year. You may recycle and you may have chosen a ‘green’ electricity tariff. You might even have some solar panels, or a wood burning stove. You may be vegetarian, or even vegan, and you may grow veg in your back garden, you might even have a greenhouse.

Now think about your parents, or your grandparents, and how they lived when they were young. They would never have heard of the concept of ‘being green’, and yet compared to any of us living in a rich Western society these days they were positively photosynthesising. If they were really lucky they might have had a car, and sure they burned coal in open fires to keep warm. But they would have had no TV, maybe a radio, and although they would have had electric light, they wouldn’t have had a fridge or a freezer, just a cold pantry. Chances are they wouldn’t have gone abroad on holiday, and if they had wanted to go abroad they would have had to go on a boat. They would have grown their own food and kept chickens, or maybe even pigs if they had a decent amount of land, but not because they wanted to look after the environment, but because it was cheap and gave a ready supply of food.

And even with that relatively spartan lifestyle, industrial society still consumed a lot of coal, and oil, and still produced enough pollution to turn buildings black and kill rivers. Things don’t seem quite as bad these days – well, not here in the West anyway. We have managed to export all the bad stuff to places where they can make the things we want to buy really cheaply.

Maybe there are some ‘green’ people still left in the West – people who have given up the creature comforts of the Western lifestyle to live on the land, farming organically, burning wood to keep themselves warm and with maybe a couple of solar panels running a few LED lights or compact fluorescents. But their lifestyle is not replicable – we can’t all do it, can we. And most of us are a million miles away from that level of ‘greenness’. Our circumstances dictate that, through no fault of our own, it seems.

But for some people, ‘being green’ has become a kind of game that they play with themselves, a kind of binge-purge fetish of abstinence and reward. Vegan recyclers who take several long-haul flights a year. Organic eaters who go shopping for it in the 4×4. Gardeners who think their solar garden lights are helping the environment. How about not buying any garden lights at all?

‘Being green’ has become such a cliche that it probably deserves to be ditched as any kind of valid term. Green consumerism is the order of the day – greenness is just a consumer choice, a flavour of living, a style to be worn to parties. Fly abroad on holiday? No problem, just pay to get some trees planted. Like a steak? No problem, just make sure it’s organic and grass-fed. New 4×4? It’s OK, you can pour cooking oil into the fuel tank.

Don’t get me wrong – I do it, you do it, we all do it. And surely making these kind of choices is better than not making them. Isn’t it?

Well yes, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we are actually ‘being green’. We are just being ‘less bad’. We will never be green, not unless we sell our cars, stop going on holiday, dig up the local park and turn it into allotments, get rid of all of our electrical appliances, computers, mobile ‘phones, videogames, TVs, music systems, and start wearing jumpers instead of turning on the central heating. And honestly, who really wants to do that? Not me, and not you. And not most people, to be blunt. And if being green is not something that most people want to do, then what hope is there? Not much, to be honest.

But maybe there is a way . . . because every little thing does help. Every ‘green’ consumer choice is better than the alternative, because it funnels money into the development of new ingenious ‘green’ ways to be. Buying solar panels, although they don’t really produce very much electricity compared to what most of us use, will help to fund the development of better solar panels, and the money spent cannot now be spent on things which might harm the environment, such as holidays. In fact, you could argue that being a consumer – sorry, citizen – in a rich Western economy actually brings with it a responsibility to direct the way the world is going by being very careful about what every penny is spent on.

Ultimately the only way to be really green is abstinence from consumerism altogether. But what to do with all that money?

If you’ve bought yourself some solar panels, don’t reward yourself with a holiday abroad. And if you don’t eat meat, don’t reward yourself with a new HD plasma-screen. If you need to reward yourself in this way for ‘good deeds’, the chance is that you have missed the reward which is intrinsic in actually doing the ‘good deed’ in the first place.

Go out and buy the carbon offsets for your honeymoon in the Maldives, and then go to Scotland instead. Go out and buy all the ingredients for your chicken carbonara, but forget to get the chicken. Go out and buy the most energy efficient tumble dryer you can find, and then dry your washing by putting it out on the washing line. Light bulb gone? Don’t replace it, just use a desk lamp instead, or a little LED on the wall.

We’re not green, but it’s fun trying to be. Dare to be different – think out of the box. Nobody will thank you for it, nobody will give you anything that will make up for that lost holiday abroad, or that nice big comfy 4×4, or that fillet steak. But YOU will know what you have done. And who knows, maybe it will make a little difference which turns out to be all the difference for someone, some creature, some civilisation, somewhere.

And who knows – as fossil energy supplies decline, and energy and food prices rise, maybe those skills which you acquired whilst you were ‘trying to be green’ will make the adjustment to an energy poor way of life that much less painful, and easier to bear. Being happy with little is a sublime skill which we in the rich West have all but lost. And just maybe, friends, family and community are more important and satisfying than all the labour-saving and entertainment gadgets we have put together.

We can’t drop out, but we can live on the edge. 😉

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