Are people today less connected to nature than previous generations? will you give?
These are the questions at the heart of new research from the German Center for Integrated Biodiversity Research and the French Station for Theoretical and Experimental Ecology. Scientists have reviewed existing research examining the relationship between humans and nature and have found that, overall, we have become less involved with nature over the last few decades. They also found that humans around the world live far from undeveloped land and are increasingly living in urban areas that have lost their tree cover over time. he was announced in December. Frontier of ecology and environment.
According to the “disappearance of experience” theory, modern societies may lose their relationship with nature and their concern for it. Although this theory has long been popular in environmental psychology, there is little empirical evidence to support it. This recent review study seeks to narrow that gap.
“Knowledge of these human-nature interactions is critical because it is critical in building relationships and behaviors with nature,” said lead author of the study, German Integrated Biodiversity Research. said Victor Cazaris, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center. and a news release from the University of Leipzig.
Researchers have reviewed research from around the world that measures human interaction with nature. They also show how far the average person lives off undeveloped land, how many people live in urban areas, how many trees there are in cities, and other potential relationships. We also calculated some other metrics. They defined “nature experience” as any interaction with nature. It includes everything from visiting national parks to seeing foxes in city gardens to seeing natural landscapes in Disney movies.
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They found that human interaction with nature has declined over the last few decades. “The basic thing we’ve shown is that North America and Western Europe are much more disconnected from nature than the rest of the world, but the rest of the world is following the same trend.” Cazaris says. popular science.
One of the key indicators that stands out is the low representation of nature in cultural products. For example, Disney films are increasingly purely depicting urban landscapes. “For urban people, these cultural products can be a very important way to develop their imagination about nature, especially as children, but also as adults,” says Cazaris. .
However, the research team warns that there are still significant gaps in research. Still, Cazaris explains that there isn’t enough evidence to make a definitive statement about the extent and degree of reduced human-nature interaction. Only about 18 fit the review parameters. And most of these 18 studies were published in North America, Western Europe, or Japan.
This analysis also did not consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human-nature interactions. Some studies have found that the pandemic has increased people’s interactions with nature, but the effects of the pandemic are “perhaps the idea that it was just a peak and then people started to go back to where they came from.” And it didn’t represent what we wanted to measure: business as usual,” says Cazaris.
The review authors also examined general trends regarding opportunities for people to connect with nature. People around the world are living a little further from undeveloped land, or less human-impacted land, than they used to. From 2000 to 2020, the average person lived about 5.6 miles off undeveloped land, but by 2020 it had increased to about 6 miles. This 7% increase in distance from nature may seem small, but it’s still a noticeable change when you look at the bigger picture. Photos, says Cazaris.
“I think the global average increase of 7% is important because this is only the last 20 years and we can hardly undo it.In some countries the increase is much more important.”
They also found that more of the world’s population lives in urban areas than before. In 1960, only 34% of people worldwide lived in urban areas, but by 2020 that number had increased to 56%. And in these urban areas, people have less access to green space than before. rice field. However, by 2020, almost all of them showed a slight reduction in crown.
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“I thought it was a very careful and valuable study,” said Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology at the University of Worcester and author of a book on environmental psychology. popular science in a statement. “The authors are right that the ‘extinction of experience’ claim needs more empirical support and more nuances about what the experience of nature means. We experience nature. There are certainly changes in method, but as this paper shows, it’s not as simple as universal decay.”
Environmental psychologists believe that interaction with nature is important. Because our interactions with nature shape how we value these spaces, which can lead to ecological behavior. This is being increasingly recognized on the world stage, says Cazaris. At COP15, the latest international conference on biodiversity loss held in Montreal, governments around the world said one of their goals is to increase access to urban green space.
“All the literature in environmental psychology shows that our experiences of nature influence our behavior and, more importantly, our values and political views,” says Cazaris. “It’s not that you can’t care about nature if you haven’t experienced it, but caring about how you relate to nature is key to the great social challenges we face.” shows that.”
Loss of interaction with nature may to some extent be an inevitable consequence of development, but mitigating it, such as increasing access to green spaces in urban areas or increasing the representation of nature in cultural products. Cazaris says there are things people can do to help. , novels, children’s books, Disney movies, and more.
“It’s not the most urgent. First, we need to stop the erosion of biodiversity,” says Cazaris. “But from a longer-term perspective, we need to pay attention to that interaction, the way we connect.”