Children in the United Kingdom are as deprived as Victorian urchins with their lack of access to green spaces – with computer games and television causing ‘Nature deficit disorder‘, coined by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and ‘Children and Nature Network’ founder.
She said that while most children have enough to eat, they do not have access to the outdoors environment, blaming computer games and television for contributing to the problem.
“We have moved on materially but whether we have moved on in terms of those unquantifiable benefits from being outdoors is questionable,” she said.
“There is a different kind of deprivation today. It may not be as obvious as having nothing to eat.
“Children are deprived of the experience of being outside, which not only affects physical health but emotional and mental wellbeing.”
The Trust is celebrating the centenary of the death of Octavia Hill, who set up the National Trust to try and help poor people in 19th Century.
Dame Fiona said the countryside is under threat from development, following a controversial change in planning laws, just as it was after the industrial revolution.
Last year the Trust led a high-profile campaign against proposals to change the planning system, which they said would have left large areas of countryside vulnerable to development.
Dame Fiona said green spaces need to be protected from development while new buildings should factor in access to parks and gardens.
The Trust is trying to improve access to the countryside by encouraging people to take up activities like walking or adventure sports on their own properties and by providing allotments.
There are also programmes to get schools and young people visiting farms and to teach children about the outdoors, including simple things like just skimming a stone or climbing a tree.
Dame Fiona pointed out that a quarter of children have never been to the countryside.
She added: “In theory it is possible to get outdoors but the truth is the actual experience people have of nature is still pretty limited. There is still an urgency to improve access to the countryside.”
- Are modern British children suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’? | Colin Tudge and Aleks Krotoski (guardian.co.uk)
- Nature deficit disorder in the spotlight (naeeuk.wordpress.com)
- Nature deficit disorder in the spotlight (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Empty Classroom Day – Taking Learning Outdoors! (naeeuk.wordpress.com)
- Kids and the Environment : Pioneering College Explore Nature-Deficit in Children (naeeuk.wordpress.com)
- Childrens ” Nature deficit disorder” (sherstonwildlife.wordpress.com)
- Hay Festival 2012: Children are deprived of access to the countryside, warns National Trust (telegraph.co.uk)
- Upcoming Event: Tackling “Nature Deficit Disorder” (manchesterclimatemonthly.net)
- ‘Nature deficit’ becomes latest curse to hit children because of obesity and health and safety (dailymail.co.uk)
- The increasingly rare sight in UK’s green spaces – children playing (guardian.co.uk)
- The National Trust Recognises Unsung ‘Green Heroes’ (prnewswire.com)
- How to reconnect children with nature (guardian.co.uk)