One-in-five children 'disconnected' from nature
The gulf between children and the environment is “one of the biggest threats to UK nature”, conservationists have said.
The warning came from the RSPB as the results of a first-ever study into how connected UK children are to nature were revealed.
A three-year research project, undertaken by the RSPB, found that only 21% of children in the UK have a level of connection to nature that can be considered “realistic and achievable”.
The report’s findings are being released at an event at the Houses of Parliament tonight.
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It comes amid growing concerns that generations of children with little or no contact with the natural world and wildlife, which the RSPB described as “one of the biggest threats to UK nature”.
Earlier this year, 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report which revealed 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied have declined over recent decades.
The charity believes that ensuring young people are connected to nature will mean they care enough to help save it in the future.
RSPB chief executive Dr Mike Clarke, who is to address MPs tonight, said: “This report is ground-breaking stuff.
“Millions of people are increasingly worried that today's children have less contact with nature than ever before, but until now there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children in the UK, which means the problem hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.
“Nature is in trouble, and children’s connection to nature is closely linked to this. The recent State of Nature report shows that nature in the UK is being lost at a dramatic rate.
“We can all take action to put nature back into childhood, to ensure young people have better lives and a better future.
“For the first time, we have created a baseline that we and others can use to measure just how connected to nature the UK’s children really are.
“By adopting this new approach, we can all monitor children’s connection and we are recommending that governments and local authorities take action to increase it through policy and practice decisions.”
Children were asked to answer a number of questions about their environment including whether they liked to garden, whether collecting rocks and shells was fun and if being outside made them feel peaceful.
The new study shows there are statistically significant differences across the UK, as well as between boys and girls, and British urban and rural homes.
Over the last decade, research has shown the diverse benefits for children of contact with nature and outdoor experiences. They include positive impacts on education, physical health emotional wellbeing and personal and social skills.
Concerns over the impact of an inactive and indoors childhood has grown over the summer with the chief executive of the British Heart Foundation calling for a return to the “traditional outdoors childhood”.
The RSPB research was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the University of Essex.
Andrew Barnett, foundation in the UK, said: “We are delighted to have supported this groundbreaking study. Robust evidence of children’s connection with nature will be a powerful lever for change.”