A Call to Action
Many children are not experiencing nature in such meaningful ways as they would have in past generations and therefore they have less of an appreciation and understanding of the natural environment and the importance of conserving and protecting it. Nature Deficit Disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, and refers to the alleged trend that children are spending less time outdoors and are disconnected from nature, with detrimental results.
Lifestyle changes in recent decades have accumulated leading to significant effects on children. Modern day health issues such as obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder and impaired social skills are becoming more apparent amongst young people. Children are spending less time outdoors for reasons including the increased use and reliance on electronic technology, increasingly busy lives, parental safety concerns and/or the disappearance of readily accessible natural spaces.
Direct experience with nature is essential for healthy childhood development. Studies have shown that an outdoor learning environment has a marked effect on the positive development of children's motor skills, senses, emotion, intellect, individual growth and social interaction, and importantly, it enables an innate attraction of nature to develop.
Research by R.A. Wilson (1994) and D.A. Simmons (1994) entitled 'Helping Children Develop a Love for the Earth' (and based on Ruth Wilson, PhD. 'The Wonders of Nature: Honoring Children's Way of Knowing') carried out personal interviews with groups of children from pre-schoolers to children aged nine and found that attitudes of today's children expressed towards various aspects of the natural environment (rain, wildflowers, trees, birds) included expressions of fear and dislike rather than appreciation, care or enjoyment.
The challenge for the community is to provide opportunities for connection with nature so it becomes an integral part of our everyday lives. It is recognised that unless people touch, feel and experience the natural world, they are not likely to understand it or learn to love it, and without these childhood opportunities, the conservation of our fragile environment is at risk in the future.
The role of Botanic Gardens worldwide is acknowledged today as more than just places to visit, representing centre's of research and conservation. Through this new project, the Authority is facilitating education through engagement and connection of the community with the nature.
For further information on the Rio Tinto Naturescape project, please download and view the brochure below.
- Nature Play WA website
- Richard Louv's website
- Children and Nature Network
- Botanic Gardens Conservation International
- Cornwell University Study on ‘Wild Nature' play
Louv. R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
Rinker, H.B. (2002), The Weight of a Petal: The Value of Botanical Gardens. An ActionBioscience.org original article.