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.

6 thoughts on “Nature+Youth=Environmentalism”

  1. G’day Mike.

    Thanks for reading my post and feeling compelled to engage me in dialogue. I haven’t had any sustainability talk stimulus in a while.

    As a boy who grew up in the city (Sydney) and now living in rural Japan (Hiroshima) I understand how you feel. But I wish I had grown up in the country. I am making up for it now.

    As a kid I had been shocked to realise I didn’t know what the animal or vegetable I was about to have for dinner looks like before it reached the supermarket. Not only that but everywhere one looks in the city one only sees the urban (read: artificial human) environment with its lack of anything from nature – the very things (trees and animals) that support my survival. Simply, the world is greater and bigger than the urban space we live in, but you wouldn’t know from just looking at the city and its “self-contained” unit.

    As I have said, I have moved on to projects, projects which try to bring nature back into our human lives. I used to ignore peace but the lack of peace is just more piece of evidence that Man has no respect for other fellow men let alone respect for the space (called Earth) He inhabits.

    I could go on for ever on this but I think I will write a post about it, thanks to you.


  2. gday again,

    this blog is very interesting again. i’m from the country, moved to the city to learn, and now think that if i don’t go home there will be no-one with an environmental connection strong enough, who can actually help humanity achieve sustainability.

    i couldn’t access your link on my own blog … perhaps leave a comment after mine on this page. i’m curious to know where your thoughts have led you.


  3. GtG: Please don’t stop writing! Not only are you a good writer, you have a marvelous advantage: location, location, location!

    Besides, sustainability needs all the pen soldiers we can muster!

    Best regards to you both!


  4. No! Don’t stop writing!!

    I’m not that good a writer. Let me tell you a secret: it’s all about the blog theme. If you choose the theme right and stick to it then the writing follows naturally.

    And thank you for your continued recommendations. You are deifnitely a better read person than I am. So please keep on writing. I thoroughly enjoy your blog. You have some great ideas and opinions.


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