Thu. Jan 23rd, 2020

City-dwellers need to rediscover nature to help sustainability, study claims

2 min read

Scientists are urging city-dwellers to rediscover nature (Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

Scientists are urging city-dwellers to rediscover nature (Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

If you live in a city, then chances are you’re going to be less fussed about recycling, buying eco-friendly products or volunteering to help the environment.

That’s the findings from a new study led by the University of Exeter.

It says that people who spend more time in urban areas rather than around nature are less likely to take action that benefits the environment.

The study, published in the journal Environment International and funded by NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Change and Health, analysed survey responses from more than 24,000 people in England.

The team looked at people’s exposure to nature in their local area, their recreational visits to natural environments (parks, woodlands, beaches etc.), and the extent to which they valued the natural world.

Visitors to the Kyoto Garden look into the water to see koi carp in Holland Parks Kyoto Garden, on 17th November 2019, in London, England. The Kyoto Garden was opened in 1991. It was a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate the long friendship between Japan and Great Britain. Today, the Kyoto Garden is a popular part of Holland Park  but its not the only Japanese garden in this green space. In July 2012, the Fukushima Memorial Garden was officially opened. It commemorates the gratitude of the Japanese people to the British people for their support following the natural disasters that struck in March 2011. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)

Visitors to the Kyoto Garden look into the water to see koi carp in Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden in London (Richard Baker/Getty Images)

During the study, the researchers found that it didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman, young or old or rich or poor when it came to being in nature. Those that regularly visited natural spaces were more likely to make ‘greener’ choices about the way the live.

‘Over 80% of the English population now live in urban areas and are increasingly detached from the natural world,’ said Lead author Dr Ian Alcock, of the University of Exeter Medical School.

‘Greening our cities is often proposed to help us adapt to climate change – for example, city parks and trees can reduce urban heat spots.

‘But our results suggest urban greening could help reduce the damaging behaviours which cause environmental problems in the first place by reconnecting people to the natural word.’

Making cities greener should help things, the researchers say (Getty Images)

Making cities greener should help things, the researchers say (Getty Images)

Co-researcher Dr Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, added: ‘The results are correlational so there is always the issue of untangling cause and effect, but our results based on a very large representative sample are consistent with experimental work which shows that people become more pro-environmental after time spent in natural vs. urban settings.’

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