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Can Reconnecting with Nature Drive Sustainability?

According to a Pew Internet Project report from 2009, 93% of teenagers and 77% of adults use the internet. Based on the Kaiser Family Foundation report, children aged 8 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours per day, seven days a week, wired into laptops, TV, video games, music, mobile phones, and other electronic devices.

An internet protection firm audit reveals that children would rather play video games or surf the internet than ride a bike or go for a swim. Even trips to national parks have declined steadily, like other physical or outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting.

Many children and adults now suffer from “nature-deficit disorder,” or a lack of understanding and desire to see meaning in the world around them. There are fewer outdoor spaces open to children, and they no longer can play safely in nature, exploring woodland, or wading in a stream. Parents are concerned about stranger risk, insect-borne viruses, and germs because children’s time is structured and their lives are more secure. In addition, recess and field trips are becoming exceedingly scarce in school curricula.

Nonetheless, research indicates that human wellbeing, knowledge, and nature have significant positive associations. According to studies, children who bond with nature are better, happier, and more innovative and imaginative. Those with attention deficit disorder, asthma, and obesity benefit from being in nature, as being in nature reduces depression and increases physical health. Adults who work in environments that incorporate nature into their architecture are more active, safer, and imaginative, too. And hospital patients who have a view of nature from their window recover more quickly.

Yet, it is essential to create opportunities for children and adults to bond with nature if we want to sustain our environment and biodiversity. We ought to unplug further and find ways to let nature bring peace to our lives. That’s because government and human decisions determine the fate of ecosystems and biodiversity. People cannot pursue a sustainable world if they have never seen nature or have limited knowledge of nature’s resources. Most environmentalists and conservationists had formative encounters with nature as adolescents, which influenced their life goals.

We must ensure that the next generation can have positive experiences with nature, as they would not be able to learn to enjoy it if they do not have the opportunity to do so. Who will be the real environmental stewards if children lose their love of nature?

A New Strategy for Sustainable Living

Cities are critical to achieving sustainable development goals. By resource extraction and disconnection from local landscapes, urbanization has undeniably led to environmental crisis. Cities, on the other hand, may be a remedy. The need to reconcile urban communities with nature is critical, but we must go beyond surface relations to those that can lead to structural change.

Climate change, species extinction, environmental hunger, and natural resource loss are some of the major problems confronting our environment today, all of which necessitate significant changes in how society interacts with the natural world. Increasing the number of visitors to the local park would not result in this transition. We need a significant shift in people’s and society’s attitudes toward nature, leading to personal and social behavior changes.

What Kind of Change Do We Need?

We need a reconnection policy that focuses on reconnecting people with the natural world in the following ways: experientially (increased contact with natural environments), materially (strengthening relations with local ecosystems), cognitively (increased awareness of our dependence on nature), and philosophically (increasing knowledge of our reliance on nature) (engendering respect for the planet). Cities foster group engagement and growth as cultural centers, and ideas propagate rapidly in them.

Cities play an important role in reuniting people with nature. However, it is time for cities to take nature connections to the next level: from making urban areas enjoyable for people to making everyone and everything become change agents.

This approach includes improving water quality and environmental flows, fostering more excellent connectivity among ecological, social, recreational, and cultural properties, and safeguarding and enhancing biodiversity.

Author: Yetunde Oyelami

Photo: parenting.firstcry.com

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