The power of the wild

Preserving natural environments and changing humankind’s exploitative relationship with the environment is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Much is said about the positive impact of preserving natural environments  for life and climate on Earth. On a global level, the loss and degradation of  habitats threatens  the survival of species and the planet’s complex equilibrium.

Recently, a new layer was added to the understanding and promotion of nature’s importance. It highlights the benefits to health and individual well being provided by the direct contact with nature. The theme gained media attention mid last year when the University of Exeter Medical School published a research that showed that people spending two hours or more per week in nature were significantly more likely to report good health and life satisfaction.

The research was conducted with almost twenty thousand people and the results were consistent across different key groups. The health and wellbeing improvement noticed was comparable to the ones derived from taking recommended levels of exercise, for example. The study suggests that weekly nature exposure could soon become an official social prescription.

In Japan, Dr Qing Li, author of the book Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing, found similar results. In the country, the practice of Shinrin-yoku (“Forest bathing”) has been incorporated to the country’s health program since 1982, after researches related spending a mindful time in natural environments with the reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels and with improvement in concentration and memory.

This positive impact seems to be even more evident when considering children’s development. Richard Louv, co founder of the Children and Nature Network, coined the term “Nature-Deficit Disorder” in 2005. Although it is not a medical diagnosis the term is used by the author to emphasize the costs of raising children deprived from experiencing nature, relating it to the high rates of child’s obesity, stress, learning disorders, hyperactivity, chronic fatigue and depression. Moreover, he suggests that the nature-deficit might weaken ecological literacy and care of the natural world.

Indeed spending time in nature seems to be crucial in developing environmental awareness. To put it simply, both children and adults are less likely to care or to protect what they don’t know and don’t value. This is why it is so important that people experience “the power of the wild” in order to respect and protect it (as stated by Vincent Stanley, Patagonia’s director on this book, published by the brand). People that experience nature, whatever the type of experience, become more connected to nature and more likely to implement active pro-biodiversity practices. 

Although more scientific research on the benefits of  nature exposure needs to be conducted, we seem to know enough. Preserving natural environments is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and to our individual health and wellbeing.

 Don’t forget to guarantee your weekly dose of nature during this weekend

and to experience the power of the wild 🙂

* About us: MAIA for the SDGs is an intensive program that will provide you with tools, skills and a support network to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

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