A report has been published recently by Natural England that reveals how much access the nation’s children have to the natural environment.
Natural England, along with Defra, English Heritage and King’s College London, have worked with MENE - the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment – to survey for the first time the experiences the under 16s have in green spaces.
There are a few findings that stand out as being particularly relevant to the work of the RSPB, especially considering our recent study which revealed that only one fifth of UK children were connected to nature.
The Natural England report lends additional weight to our results. They found that 12% of children ‘rarely visited the natural environment’ – children that, in the past 12 months, stated that they had ‘never’ normally visited any green space. That’s approximately 1.3 million children that say that they didn’t visit a natural area in the past year. If children don’t experience nature, how can they connect with it? Care about it?
The report also highlighted the importance of local ‘managed’ green spaces to children, with, in an average month, 47% of all UK children visiting a local urban park. That’s approximately 4.8 million children that utilise local green spaces.
Additionally, the report discovered a strong, but not particularly unexpected, association between the frequency of visits taken by the adults to the natural environment and children living in the same household. In households where adults frequently visited the natural environment (i.e. at least once a week), 80% of children were also frequent visitors. By contrast, in households where adults rarely (or never) visited the natural environment the proportion of children frequently visiting the natural environment was 39%. This result doesn’t seem particularly suprising when you consider the massive decline in children being allowed the freedom to explore and play outside without adult supervision. Less than 10% of children today play in natural spaces, compared to 40% of people forty years ago.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts are calling for legislation to ensure all people can access local natural spaces and learn to care for nature, as part of a Nature and Wellbeing Bill. You can help us and join in by emailing your MP today. You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #actfornature
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