I recently had the good fortune to attend a Trees Forever conference titled, “Green and Blue: A Natural Connection,” and was inspired to share what I learned. Richard Louv, the author of “Last Child in the Woods,” makes the statement that children are spending less time in nature than ever before and that it’s affecting their mental health, physical health, and knowledge and experience of place. Dr. William Sullivan with the University of Illinois has collected data that shows how green spaces positively affect our minds, our senses, and our overall sense of being. In one experiment, participants were stressed and told to look at streets that had a heavy tree canopy versus no trees.
The participants that looked at tree-lined streets recovered from their stress more quickly. In another experiment, there was a clear trend that students with a view of green space in their classrooms were able to snap back to attention after being stressed versus those that had no windows or their windows faced a brick wall. I’d like to stress (pun unintended!) that it’s not just kids that have nature-deficit disorder. Adults frequently ride in their cars to work, sit at their desks in their cubicles, and drive home, perhaps with some TV to relax after the long day. And yet this way of life is created by us, or by other humans.
What if we could change our way of life to one that makes us feel more alive? What if nature was as much a part of our lives as technology? All I could think about that day were the beautiful bluffs, expansive Mississippi River, and herds of deer that awaited me once I drove home. We have nature, so let’s get outside and get in touch, both for ourselves and for our kids, so they grow up knowing what it’s like to catch a trout, to lay on their backs in a wildflower meadow, and to build a tree fort!
The Driftless Area Wetlands Centre is pursuing a Driftless Area Ambassadors Program, in which kids and adults can get closer to nature, so keep your eyes peeled for future notices!