Only one in five children in the UK has a “realistic and achievable” connection to the natural world, a three-year study by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has found.
The study investigated what RSPB considers to be “one of the greatest threats to UK nature”, the lack of engagement children have with the natural world and wildlife. It compared boys and girls as well as children from rural and urban areas, and considered local and national trends.
Dr Mike Clarke, RSPB chief said, “Millions of people are increasingly worried that today’s children have less contact with nature than ever before, but until now there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children in the UK, which means the problem hasn’t been given the attention it deserves”.
RSPB questioned 1,200 children between 8-12 years about outdoor and nature-related activities, finding that girls are more connected to nature than boys.
The study ranked kids’ connection with nature on a scale from -2, to +2, considering 1.5 a realistic and achievable target. It found that the highest value – 27% – was achieved in Scotland, 25% in Northern Ireland, 24% in London, 21% in the whole of England and only 13% in Wales. The value was slightly higher among children from urban areas.
“Nature is in trouble, and children’s connection to nature is closely linked to this. The recent State of Nature report shows that nature in the UK is being lost at a dramatic rate. We can all take action to put nature back into childhood, to ensure young people have better lives and a better future”, Clarke said.
“For the first time, we have created a baseline that we and others can use to measure just how connected to nature the UK’s children really are.
He added, “By adopting this new approach, we can all monitor children’s connection and we are recommending that governments and local authorities take action to increase it through policy and practice decisions.”