The impact of children’s disconnection with nature shows in the decline in wellbeing and cognitive and physical health says Curtin University Education lecturer and researcher, Sonja Kuzich.
Environmental Sociologist Angela Wardell-Johnson says:
“It [is] important to celebrate nature because there is often an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness in the face of extreme extinctions, climate change and general environmental overuse and degradation.”
They outlined research activity in the safeguarding and management of safe havens for biodiversity in South-West Australia.
In her ‘Nature Deficit’ Symposium talk, Sonia made the following points:
“Loving, living and learning through nature are an essential part of childhood and it is surprising to learn how many of today’s children have little opportunity or inclination to be outdoors..
A recent Australian longitudinal study, Growing up in Australia, showed that between 2004 and 2008, six to nine year olds spent just under two hours a day outdoors on the weekend, with the rest of their time spent on sedentary indoor activities..
Even more surprising is that in just over one generation of Australians, outdoor play has reduced from 73 per cent to 13 per cent..
A great deal of evidence shows that early exposure of children to free, unstructured play in nature before the age of 12 develops a lifelong fascination, care and respect for the environment..
Immersion in natural landscapes, such as forested areas, also promotes a sense of awe, wonder and an appreciation of the ‘magic’ of nature in children..
With the proliferation of artfully landscaped and manicured suburban housing developments, ‘litigation proof’ council playgrounds and school grounds, coupled with the parental fear factor, there is little space left for children to enjoy access to the natural environment.”
In his book, ‘Last Child in the Woods‘, Richard Louv identifies similar patterns among American children.
He has coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’ to describe the loss of this innate emotional affiliation, which has been built into us over millions of years to help us survive.
“At a time when concerns about the state of the globe, environmental destruction, climate change and precarious political, social and economic conditions are paramount, there is an irony that children are being increasingly divorced from the very elements that may be the key to our future survival.”
Sonia says there is a strong need for environmental education in Australia to address the lack of awareness and care concerning forests.
“Education challenges conformity and contributes to appreciation and respect. Regaining a sense of awe and respect for forests through education can assist society to gain that much needed ‘natural balance’.”
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