There are reports of children from inner-city schools being unable to identify the sea or a duck, or misidentifying cows in a field as horses – this is partially as a result of what’s commonly known as nature deficiency.
For those of us fortunate enough to have grown up somewhere where the square metres of tarmac are outnumbered by the square metres of wheat fields, it’s all too easy to forget that in the UK, millions of people don’t have easy access to nature and the natural world.
For hundreds of thousands of families, access to nature doesn’t simply mean physical access, but educational access and awareness is missing as well, meaning that even if they could get to their local woodland, they wouldn’t know where it is or what the opening times are?
We talked before about having access to nature on prescription and how important it is for community projects that focus on working with children and young people.
But aside from projects where the main purpose is accessing the local green spaces, why can’t we look further at projects that aren’t location-specific, and think about whether there could be a secondary or tertiary benefit from siting these projects in a more rural setting or simply at the local park?
When commissioning projects or creating and planning them, it’s worth looking at your primary objectives and seeing if there is a way to incorporate secondary objectives that can increase and improve the outcomes for the project participants. Can you raise awareness of other activities in the local area? Can you help your group to be empowered through knowledge about nature on their doorstep?
It’s up to us all to ensure that nature deficiency isn’t a by-product of poor project planning when we are working with our communities.