THE BLOG

We Need Nature to Stay Smart

07/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The sun's still got maybe 2.3 billion habitable years, scientists have recently stated. It helps to put our climate troubles in a bigger perspective.

While climate woes are real and we need to respond to them, there are other reasons to rethink how we now are in the world. As human beings, we deeply need the soothing sights and sounds of the natural world, and to keep battling the nature deficit disorder so many city kids suffer from. Nature conservation also needs a makeover to help it keep pace with the environmental changes the earth is experiencing.

Being in nature make us smarter, and better able to concentrate. Walking in nature can help kids focus as well as a dose of medicine does (and no, urban walking didn't have the same effect).

Why? It seems our brain has a 'directed' mode, which we use extensively while working, say, in front of a computer screen. 'Involuntary' attention, on the other hand, takes over when we're peering out at a beautiful view, for example.

As you might have guessed, too much directed mode can make us fatigued, and nature's swaying branches and rippling ponds help us switch back to involuntary mode, giving the brain's directed mode time to rest.

EcoAmerica's Nature Rocks campaign is one effort to get families to get their kids outside more to reap the benefits. (Contributing to the group's Facebook page might even help snag you a t-shirt).

If the scientists are correct, nature will probably be around for quite some time. But it seems like the smartest thing we could do for ourselves is to take just a bit more responsibility for protecting whatever piece of it is closest to us.