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Will Kids Who Don't Know Nature, Grow Up to Hate the Planet?

Will Kids Who Don't Know Nature, Grow Up to Hate the Planet?

After waking up to a bird singing the car-alarm song note for note the other day, this I can believe: a recent survey shows kids have almost completely lost touch with the natural world. Half of the 700 quizzed were unable to identify a selection trees, flowers, and animals, and playing outside ranked as their least favorite way to spend time. Computer time trumped backyard expeditions for most.

Think it's just a sign of the changing times, and if kids need to know what an oak tree looks like, well, that's what is Google is for? According to famed Brit nature program guru Sir David Attenbourough says it's a bad omen for the preservation of the environment.

The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out, and an interest in the natural world doesn't grow as it should. Nobody is going protect the natural world unless they understand it.

The blame for the gap in knowledge can be spread around: overprotective (or disinterested) parents don't introduce kids to the outdoors, and ironically conservationists keep kids away for fear they'll damage the landscape. One "play development officer" (my next job please) says, "something magical occurs when children and wild spaces mix." The only way kids will learn to protect the planet is if they're allowed to learn about it through play — and kids are the future of the globe.


Join The Conversation
Michaelrcks Michaelrcks 8 years
Not when there are still books to read and documentaries to watch.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Right, I was just saying they won't hate it, they just won't care about it. Which is different.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
They may not start forest fires, but they aren't going to care about paving paradise to put up a parking lot.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Yeah, I thought the "hate" part was a little off. It's not like kids who don't play outdoors are going to start forest fires.
Frank-y-Ava Frank-y-Ava 8 years
I don't know about hate, but they probably won't care.
Meike Meike 8 years
You can't know nature by memorizing the names of tree, plants, and animals. You can only know nature by living near it. Someone who lives among nature is certainly going to appreciate it more than someone who has only read about it in books.
kpelli73 kpelli73 8 years
It is a disturbing thing that children don't get to spend time outside. Many of my fondest childhood memories involve woods and creeks. There are organizations who are trying to help recapture this for today's children. A great one in my area is the Center for Education, Imagination, and the Natural World ( - the work they are doing is so important.
planet1 planet1 8 years
It's a good start for this article to take note that wild species are constantly adapting to humans (the mockingbird imitating a car alarm). Human kids are at least as adaptable as birds, but they have to have something to observe before they can "get it". When my kids were growing up, both their mother and I worked. We had no choice. That means that we had one third of their lives to impress them with our values. Another third was influenced by school and other paid caregivers, and the final eight hours a day they were asleep. We gave them every bit of our understanding of nature that we could, weekends and vacations, but they did not have the absolute ungoverned freedom of my own youth. That is the key. We have to stop regimenting their lives, in spite of the dangers that beset us all. Give the kids a shot at finding nature, and I'm sure they'll love it. Freedom is more important than safety.
kia kia 8 years
I read a book a long time ago titled "The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation" by Livingston that explored motives to conserve wildlife. The book basically came down to the idea that most conservationists had some experience in nature, or with an animal in the zoo that made them selfish enough to want to preserve it. Kids don't need to know scientific nomenclature, but if they aren't exposed to nature to appreciate it then they will have no theoretical motive to protect it.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 8 years
I worked with a girl who told me tomatoes came from Safeway and she wasn't joking - another true story the same company a guy told me tomatoes would kill you if you ate them raw. Honestly, you can't make this stuff up.
Fo-show317771 Fo-show317771 8 years
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Okay, yeah, if it was multiple choice, like, a) pine tree b) oak tree or c) rose bush, I'd probably do okay.
nevadamtnbear nevadamtnbear 8 years
Torgleson - yah, that is why I wonder what they gave kids to identify. If it was an oak vs. a maple vs. a sycamore tree, then that's one thing. But if it was a conifer vs. a deciduous, that's another.
nevadamtnbear nevadamtnbear 8 years
My heart weeps. Computer time is preferable to playing outside? I'm interested in the items which were set forth for kids to identify, and how do their results differ from the general population of adults. That would be quite revealing to me. But still. This story truly makes me sad.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
I don't generally care for opinions based on one anecdotal piece of evidence, but! I am a bit of an eco-nut, and I guarantee you I could not pick out an oak from a maple. I don't care for birds, and I'm not generally outdoorsy, but I still think its important to protect the planet.
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