Nature Connectedness, the greatest discovery that you do not know enough about.
We should all be aware of the factors that are contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss, things like excessive consumption, emissions, habitat loss, land use etc.
We have been warned about all these things for years and yet it always seems like no one cares, biodiversity loss continues, climate change statistics continue to worsen.
It can be easy to feel that these things will never improve and that we’re pretty much doomed, I know that I felt this way myself. However, having learned more about ‘Nature Connectedness’, I feel quite positive that we can find a way out of this mess. Safe, accessible, inclusive path networks where people can notice nature while walking or wheeling every day will have a valuable role in achieving this.
Nature Connectedness studies the relationship between people and nature. It’s not about studying how much people know about nature or how much time they spend in nature, it’s all about relationships. We can improve this relationship by taking time to notice nature more, the sounds, sights, scents, views etc
Research shows that when this relationship improves, people care for nature more, do more to help it and live in a way that has less of an impact on the planet. Furthermore, how much we notice, think about, and appreciate our natural surroundings, is critical in supporting good mental health.
For many years in the UK, we have tried to educate people about nature in the hope that as people learned more, they’d do more to help it. What we now know is that we should have been trying to focus more on improving relationships with nature.
I sometimes compare Nature Connectedness to the relationship with a pet. If I learned about the anatomy and physiology of my dog a bit like a vet does, it doesn’t necessarily make me love him more. If I play with him and notice the fun things he does, I'll be likely to love him more and do whatever I can to look after him.
I’m delighted to see that more people are slowly becoming aware of the importance of improving our relationship with nature through nature connectedness. However, the term nature connectedness is occasionally used in the wrong context meaning that some people don’t understand how to strengthen their relationship with nature. As mentioned earlier it’s not about time in nature, or learning about nature, it's all about noticing nature more.
To help people get a better understanding of how easy it is to connect with nature, Paths for All have created a fantastic animation.
The more I learn about Nature Connectedness the more passionate I feel about the work that Paths for All do to encourage more people to walk and to improve community path networks. There is no better way to notice nature than to go for a walk along a path and notice nature that’s all around you as you stroll along.
If we want to encourage more people to be active outdoors and connect with nature, then path networks that are accessible and welcoming are going to be crucial to achieve this. There may also be things that path managers could do to help path users notice nature more, for example suitably placed seating or fixed-point photography posts.
Nature Connectedness is still a relatively new area of study, and there seems to be more and more research being published that shows the benefits it could bring to people and the wider environment. I think there are exciting times ahead as more people begin to use nature connectedness as part of their work, either in health, outdoor access or environmental sectors.