Have our cities lost touch with nature?
Statistics and media reports keep telling us that the world is becoming more urban than ever before. With more people moving to cities and technology allowing us to be more connected to one another, we are connecting less and less with the natural world - the earth, the trees, the birds and the bees and all that stuff that doesn’t require electricity.
City life typically involves most of us working in an office for 8 hours a day, then meeting our friends at a bar, maybe going to the gym, seeing a movie/show, or going home and cooking dinner with the family and watching tv, using the computer, reading, etc. That’s a lot of time indoors. And let’s be realistic - even though it’s all nice and sunny in Vancouver at the moment - most of the time we are inside hiding from the rain.
Coffee Shops: Where Vancouverites like to hide. Photo Credit Vancouverish
According to Richard Louv, if we want to be better, more creative, healthy humans, we need to get off the couch and get outside. In The Nature Principle, Louv delivers a powerful call to action. Supported by groundbreaking research, anecdotal evidence, and personal stories, Louv argues that by tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds. According to Louv,
“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
Our generation is more disconnected from the natural world than ever before and Louv argues that we need to address this by reimagining our cities as engines of biodiversity and using urban planning to develop more walkable communities.
Vancouver. Photo Credit: MandyandChris
In Metro Vancouver, we are incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by nature, thanks to our designated Green Zones. The City of Vancouver is also doing more to support urban agriculture and increasing options for cycling and outdoor public spaces. Of course this is not the case in a lot of cities, and even in cities like Vancouver with an abundance of opportunities to connect with nature, we still find it hard to tear ourselves away from our screens.
The importance of being outdoors isn’t just to benefit our physical health, but our mental health as well. It’s not just exercise. Being outdoors is calming and increases our sense of wellbeing more than any treadmill can.
And what will happen if we lose our connection to the natural world? According to Louv,
“We will lose a part of our humanity as a species…part of ourselves. We will lose a huge degree of richness in our lives and lose our relationship to the earth. Studies show that most environmentalists had some transcendent experience in nature as kids. What happens if that ends? Who will be the true stewards of the earth?”
Nature Reserve in Buenos Aires. Photo Credit: jmpznz
Then again, Louv states that this increasing urbanization of the earth could also mark the beginning of a “new kind of city”, where we do more to encourage walking and connection with nature.
Vancouver is already doing this, but maybe we need to do more to share our model with other cities struggling to achieve the same goals.
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