Updated: Jul 14, 2022
A quick post this week to draw your attention to a recent publication from the University of Derby. There's been some coverage in the press recently about how Britain ranks bottom in Europe for nature connectedness which is quite a depressing thought. Despite what we often tell ourselves, it turns out we are not a country of nature lovers and indeed the UK is one of the most nature depleted country in the world. Of course, the better the nature, the better the nature connection. And the better your nature connection the better your life satisfaction. Again unsurprisingly, people who live in areas with good levels of biodiversity are likely to have better levels of nature connection, which is why it is so exciting that there are now 17 Local Nature Reserves in South Lanarkshire. But nature connection is about so much more than parks and nature reserves. That's what is so exciting about the new Nature Connection Handbook, it's useful for so many different areas of work. It gives you the science behind why nature connection is important and a range of ideas for how to help people get more connected. Hint: a lot of it is about prompting people to notice nature. As I have mentioned a billion times before, noticing 3 good things in nature every day makes you happier. (Interestingly during the first lockdown people noticed more nature, but those figures plummeted once we could go back to meeting friends and drinking coffee.) It's also about creating places for connection and designing spaces to prompt nature connection. Again - this isn't about bird hides in the nature reserves - this is about planters growing flowers and veg on train stations, grass roofs on bus stops and chalk signs on pavements naming the flowers in the hedgerows. It's not just confined to those of us who are working with or for nature - it's about arts policies that celebrate nature, health and social care that involve nature for wellbeing, it's about education that gives children the opportunities to be outside, and transport that is not only good for the environment but prompts people to connect with nature on their commute.
So what are the five pathways to nature connection?
Connect: use your senses to engage with nature: open your window and feel the breeze; listen to the birds; smell the flowers.
Beauty: you don't have to be out in nature to get the benefits of it. Look at photographs and paintings of nature; watch the scenery through the car window; listen to songs about nature.
Meaning: think about the natural cycle of the year; you don't have to be at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice; watch for the first swallow of summer, or the first conker under the chestnut.
Emotion: laugh at the pesky squirrels playing in the trees; immerse yourself in nature programmes on TV; remember happy times you have spent in nature.
Compassion: do things that benefit nature. Feed the birds and put water out for them, especially in dry periods or in very cold weather. Pick up any litter outside your house; even eating a bit less meat can be good for the environment.
Thinking about the pathways when you are designing activities, spaces and initiatives and see if you can build in a bit of nature connection. The handbook highlights a number of projects who have used the pathways as a framework when designing new projects. Paths for All Walking with Nature campaign is a great example of this in Scotland.
So just because you might not work in a "green" organisation, don't let that stop you. Download the handbook and have a read, and see what you can do to help people get a closer connection to nature. Additional benefit: people who are more connected to nature are more likely to engage in pro-nature and pro-conservation behaviours - and the world needs more of that right now.