Should we connect children to nature in the Anthropocene?

Published online
07 Aug 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Larson, B. M. H. & Fischer, B. & Clayton, S.
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To most conservationists and many parents, it seems obvious that it is a good thing to teach children to value the natural world. Not only does connection with nature support their development and well-being, but it also supports ongoing efforts by humans to sustain the natural world. However, there are incontrovertible trends towards a diminution of the state of nature as a consequence of human activities. In this context, as a thought experiment, we address a rather grim question: Should we still encourage children to be connected to nature, to care for it and be concerned about it? We first consider the meaning of connection to nature in the Anthropocene, and then turn to a consideration of several ethical dimensions of this problem, including the potential trade-off between well-known health benefits of time in nature and the long-term psychological impacts of loss of nature (e.g., ecological grief and solastalgia). While there is no simple answer to our question, our analysis does highlight underappreciated ethical dilemmas of the Anthropocene as well as the value of the local, urban forms of nature to which children around the world are increasingly exposed and engaging with in unprecedented ways.

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