Nature, Peace, Love and Understanding

Chief Scout in Nature

Science Supports Nature

“In our studies, people with less access to nature show relatively poor attention or cognitive function, poor management of major life issues, poor impulse control,” says Frances Kuo, a professor of natural resources and environmental science and psychology at Illinois University.  She has examined the relationships between people and the natural environment from several angles.  Among her findings:

  • the elderly tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space
  • college students do better on cognitive tests when their dorm windows view natural settings
  • kids with ADHD have fewer symptoms after outdoor activities in lush environments
  • public housing residents report better family interactions when they live near trees

How Nature Helps

Richard Louv, Co-Founder of the Children & Nature Network and author of eight books, including Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and The Nature Principle uses this and more recent research to suggest “six reasons why meaningful relationships with nature may — in concert with other approaches — bolster mental health and civility, and reduce human violence in our world.”  The six reasons:

  1. Green exercise improves psychological health.
  2. In some cases, greening neighborhoods may help reduce domestic violence.
  3.  Natural playgrounds may decrease bullying.
  4. Other species help children develop empathy.
  5. Greater biodiversity in cities can increase social and family bonding.
  6. More nature in our lives can offset the dangerous psychological impact of climate change.

Louv concludes: “We are not powerless in the face of planetary or societal challenges. Granted, we will not be able to prevent every violent tragedy, but we can surely make our lives greener and gentler. And that positive influence may ripple outward in ways we cannot immediately measure or see.”

Applying Science

Reacting to questions about the solidity of the science as of 2009,  Ms Kuo said: “So when people say: ‘As a scientist, would you say that we know this now? Do we know that people need nature?’ I say: ‘As a scientist I can’t tell you. I’m not ready to say that, but as a mother who knows the scientific literature, I would say, yes.’ ”

Louv’s use of words like “may”, “can” and “in some cases” reflect the cautious scientist like Ms Luo, however as an engineer trained to apply science to the needs of people, I have to assert that the scientific evidence is strong enough to apply these findings and they are being applied in one way or another in communities around the world.   In previous blog posts I’ve talked about applying this kind of science to a variety of topics including:

What can you do in your neighborhood to advance peace, love and understanding through nature?

Let Us Know

If you have been working to enhance the human-nature connection, let us know what you are doing and how it is going in the comments on this blog post.  What you are doing may inspire others to begin work in their communities.

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