A new study has shown that exposure to nature at a young age may lead to environmental awareness. But it stresses that freeplay with nature, rather than controlled or organized exposure, to be the key. One of the authors of the study, Nancy Wells, wrote:
“Participating in nature-related activities that are mandatory [like the scouts or other forms of environmental education programs] evidently do not have the same effects as free play in nature, which don’t have demands or distractions posed by others and may be particularly critical in influencing long-term environmentalism.”
And all the more reason we should worry when The Economist warns us with an article on rural and urban population in its The World in 2006 magazine. It said for the first time in the history of humankind there will be more people living in the city than the country. Put another way it means more children are seeing and interacting less with nature, and they have no choice.
This reminds me of one of my favourite sustainability jokes, Most people in the city have come up from the country to make enough money to leave the city and live in the country. Joke aside, the above humour has two flaws to its attitude. Firstly, it suggests that that it is hard to make a living in the country. But that really it all depends on how much you make and spend. Quoting my father, who is a fountain of wisdom, he said, “it doesn’t matter how much you make, three-thousand dollars or three-million, if you spend one-dollar more than you earn you are in the red”.
So in this case, country living does not necessarily equate to poverty – country life can be comfortable but not extravagant. It is only when the city glitter blinds you that you are made to feel inadequate. Which brings me to the second flaw: after being blinded by the city glitter and you return to country living you are all but unprepared for its frugal, but sustainable, lifestyle. And this is why you need that money – to bring with you the luxuries and convenience of the city that you are now so used to.
So why not just not get blinded by the city glitter? Why not feel adequate and proud of your frugally sustainable country life? City people are really just deluded and insecure. Someday they will realize their iPods don’t make them a better person, but hearing the music in nature will. It seems that people like Ms Wells and the guy who wrote The Economist article (and the thousands of other people who write on environmentalism) are saying most of us need to get to know nature before we forget how to live within it.