"I recall my father's dark tanned neck, creased with lines of dust, as he tilled our garden. I ran ahead of him, pulling rocks and bones and toys from his path." -- The Nature Principle
In Last Child in the Woods, I focused on why children need nature. In my latest book, The Nature Principle, I tell how the whole family -- and whole communities -- can become happier, healthier and smarter through more contact with the natural world.
Here are 10 reasons children and adults need nature:
We have a human right to a meaningful connection to nature, and we have the responsibilities that come with that right. Few today would question the notion that every person, especially every young person, has a right to access the Internet. We should also have access to the natural world, because that connection is part of our humanity.
Researchers have found that regardless of culture, <a href="http://www.apa.org/divisions/div10/articles/orians.html" target="_hplink">people gravitate</a> to images of nature, especially the savanna. Our inborn affiliation for nature may explain why we prefer to live in houses with particular views of the natural world.
Australian professor Glenn Albrecht, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University, has coined the term "solastalgia." He combined the Latin word <em>solacium</em> (comfort -- as in solace) and the Greek root -- <em>algia</em> (pain) to form <em>solastalgia</em>, which he defines as "the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault."
Scientists recently found that humans have the <a href="http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v10/n1/abs/nn1819.html" target="_hplink">ability to track</a> by scent alone. Some humans rival bats in echolocation or biosonar abilities. Military studies show that some soldiers in war zones <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/28/world/fg-bombs-vision28" target="_hplink">see nuances</a> others miss, and can spot hidden bombs; by and large these tend to be rural or inner city soldiers, who grew up more conscious of their surroundings.
Spending more time outdoors nurtures our "nature neurons" and our natural creativity. For example, at the University of Michigan, <a href="http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/6892" target="_hplink">researchers demonstrated</a> that, after just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent. In workplaces designed with nature in mind, employees are <a href="http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060718/news_lz1e18louv.html" target="_hplink">more productive</a> and take <a href="http://www.environmentalhealth.ca/fall93sick.html" target="_hplink">less sick time</a>.
Pennsylvania researchers found that patients in rooms with tree views had shorter hospitalizations, less need for pain medications, and fewer negative comments in the nurses' notes, compared to patients with views of brick.
Researchers in Sweden have found that joggers who exercise in a natural green setting feel more restored and less anxious, angry, or depressed than people who burn the same amount of calories jogging in a built urban setting.
Levels of neurochemicals and hormones associated with social bonding are <a href="http://www.cpementalhealth.com/content/4/1/9" target="_hplink">elevated</a> during animal-human interactions., Researchers at the University of Rochester report that exposure to the natural environment leads people to <a href="http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=3450" target="_hplink">nurture close relationships</a> with fellow human beings, value community, and to be more generous with money.
New ways are emerging to make that bond, such as family nature clubs, through which multiple families go hiking, gardening or engage in other outdoor activities together. In the U.K., families are forming "green gyms," to bring people of all ages together to do green exercise.
The natural world's benefits to our cognition and health will be irrelevant if we continue to destroy the nature around us, but that destruction is assured without a human reconnection to nature.
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 Juan Antonio Martínez Rojas, Jesús Alpuente Hermosilla, and Pablo Luis López Espí y Rocío Sánchez Montero, "Physical Analysis of Several Organic Signals for Human Echolocation: Oral Vacuum Pulses," Acta Acustica United with Acustica 95, no. 2 (2009): 325 - 30.
 R. S. Ulrich, "View through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery," Science 224 (1984): 420 - 21.
 M. Bodin and T. Hartig, "Does the Outdoor Environment Matter for Psychological Restoration Gained Through Running?" Psychology of Sport and Exercise 4 (2003): 141 - 53.
 C. Antonioli and M. Reveley, "Randomised Controlled Trial of Animal Facilitated Therapy with Dolphins in the Treatment of Depression," British Medical Journal 331 (2005): 1231.
 A. Baverstock and F. Finlay, "Does Swimming with Dolphins Have Any Health Benefits for Children with Cerebral Palsy?" Archives of Disease in Childhood 93, no. 11 (2008).