Thanks to the SEEd / NAEE blogs for alerting me to recent paper in The Conservation by Hannah Pitt, Research Associate at Cardiff, comments on research by Natural England on the extent to which youth is ‘engaging with nature’.
I’ve been commenting on this research for a while now through an internal support / reference group, and some of the points Pitt makes are familiar to me: for example, the broad definition of ‘natural environment’ (an urban outdoor exercise area counts as much as a nature reserve, even though the amount of ’nature’ in them might be quite different). Pitt notes that the often relatively wildlife-rich back garden doesn’t count in all this as spending time there is not seen as being away from the house, which is seen as important by those who count such things.
The best point that Pitt makes (for me) is to point to the importance of focusing on what youth (and everybody else for that matter) does when it is in nature, as opposed just being pleased that they are out there. She says,
"Rather than thinking of all places with a good amount of greenery as natural and therefore beneficial, we need to distinguish which features and characteristics can have positive effects. By understanding this it becomes possible to plan environments which support positive, healthy engagement. … what one does when outdoors is as significant in terms of well-being as the very fact of getting out and among the plants.”
Just so, even if you do very little, as sometimes being is as good as doing – as Wordsworth knew.
Pitt mentions research that suggests that different cultural groups have varied motivations for spending time outdoors, and that there is more to learn here. I’m sure that this is right, but might it also be the case that differences within groups are now becoming as great as those between them? Does anyone know?