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Children who play outside more likely to protect nature as adults (exactlyscience.com)
181 points by devinp on Mar 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments

Saying playing outside leads to protecting nature implies they take effort from the norm.

I prefer to look at playing outdoors and caring about nature as normal, so I'd restate it as "Keeping children indoors too much leads them to harm the environment more as adults."

Anyone can define "normal" for themselves how they want. I find this perspective leads to going outside more and caring more about the environment.

Does this mean that the most vociferous protectors of the environment may come from farming and rural areas where kids pretty much spend the majority of their free time outdoors?

I'm not sure there is a connection, or maybe this speaks only to people who are generally removed from nature and only see it in spurts?

In any event, the more conservationist (within reason) the better --just not sure these results mean much.

I find this with much in the mainstream media. So much so that I created a browser plugin to change some terms that really irked me (anti-austerity for example).

There is also a misconception of what "nature" is. Mega-city-dwellers going for a walk to a park and throwing their empty-soda-can in a bin, think they are "doing nature good".

If they take a step back and look around they will notice that this human-made "nature" which consumes massive amounts of water, to sustain the defined/controlled (human-made) beauty, and think to themselves "oh nature is perfect, oh how well I am protecting it!".

I don't know many city-dwellers that actually go for a hike on a real mountain to be in/with nature (and not some 5-star-hotel-private-beach or human-made green path).

Jesus, there's no way to keep people happy, is there?

Mega-cities are the most nature-friendly way of living, because they pack most humans over the smallest possible area. I'd love for everyone to live on their little farm with a nice orchard in the back, but that's just not feasible.

Also, is strikes me as extremely elitist that you complain about people going on man-made green paths or private beach hotels. Is my appreciation of a forest lower because the path has been gravelled by someone, or my appreciation of a sunset over disappearing horizon not as important, because there's a 5 star hotel behind my back? It's just extremely bigoted to say how someone can enjoy something.

I am far from elitist. I enjoy both camping, and the 5star hotel. Each has its own benefits. I am discussing the people whose idea of "Nature" is a park.

Paved/defined paths rule (and keep us safe) and I wish more and more people would go for a hike instead of rotting away in front of a tv watching GoT ;)

Sunset: try Aigiali in Amorgos :)

I think there's an even bigger misconception of what "protecting nature" is. I grew up in New York and now live in LA, and I can guarantee you that I do more to "protect nature" than the average suburbanite/exurbanite/rural person/whatever:

1. I'm a vegetarian, potentially transitioning to veganism.

2. I don't own a car; I mostly take public transit.

3. I take recycling and composting very seriously.

4. I pay attention to my purchases (e.g. I don't buy nuts like pistachios and almonds due to California's drought).

I could go on, but you get the point.

I realize that I'm probably an outlier, but I would argue that many of us city-dwellers have a head start on "protecting the environment." As a sibling comment said, living in an urban area is more efficient by default, so I'm curious to know what lifestyle choices are made by non-city dwellers en masse that makes you think we are at a disadvantage? A public park might require tons of water to sustain, but so do golf courses, people's front lawns, and plenty of similar things typically found outside of cities. Aside from all of this, one chicken egg requires around 50 gallons of water to produce, so I'm sure that if you calculated the water needed to sustain non-vegan diets, the "cost" of upkeep for parks, golf courses, etc. would be negligible.

Not to mention that having low-density, sprawled-out communities literally inside forests (or deserts, or other biomes) is not good for the ecosystem either.

The competing chips on y'alls shoulders really illuminates how useless this discussion is.

"A public park might require tons of water to sustain"

Living large in the burbs east of the Mississippi causes less environmental damage than even the most ascetic life imaginable west of the Mississippi. More water falls from the skies, for free, without pumping, than we know what to do with... In theory public parks and front yards in the west could be xeriscape-d but in practice they seem to mostly try to emulate golf courses in Florida leading to massive water use in a desert.

Only if badly designed. Plants store water, shadow the soil and keep the water in the area. A park "creates" its own water.

And your point is? There should be no parks? We should not call them nature? We should not throw cans into bins? I grew in a nature. Now I live near a park. The tree is still a tree and I don't leave trash around no matter if I am in the forest or in the park. Actually littering is one of the things I just cannot understand. How a person should be brought up to think that leaving trash scattered behind is in any way normal thing to do.

My point is "city park != Nature"

A walk in Hyde park gets you closer to "nature" but not really. It is just a brief escape from the concrete & asphalt.

Even the park is nature. Biodiversity may be lower, but the small park here in Berlin that I pass through daily is home to a few foxes, tons of birds and even a pair of birds of prey nest here. It's not the wild cost countryside but it's a habitat of its own.

and then the mega city dwellers look down upon those of us that grew up in rural areas as "flyover states" and "rednecks." They might be surprised to see how environmentally conscious a lot of the "rednecks" and hunters/fisherman/etc actually are.

and then the flyover-state rednecks look down upon those who grew up in the mega-cities as "out of touch" and "liberal elites".

Everyone might be surprised at how similar others are if they stopped trying to find and label differences.

Anecdotally, it worked for me. My parents did not have the money to purchase even a computer; the TV which we had was limited to 20 channels. So I ended up spending a lot of time outside, playing outdoors, exploring nooks and crannies of our mixed urban neighborhood. What made an immense impact on me was just how polluted with trash/garbage a lot of the city was (Mumbai, India). So there was no need for a teacher to tell me to not litter; I could see what effect cumulative littering had on the environment.

My buddies and I used to play outdoors whenever the weather allowed as kids. My mom would literally kick me out if I stayed inside on a nice day.

These days, when I walk through the streets of my neighborhood, I don't ever see any kids play outside, even on the sunniest of days.

In parts I see that one of the reason for that may be that a lot of the open space we used to have as kids have been built on since. There was an empty lot to both sides of my parents house in my childhood with trees on them that we used to climb all the time, surrounded by a wire mesh fence that was used as our soccer goal. This space is gone, and I wouldn't even know where kids should even play in my parents' street.

But then, there's also a playground close to my grandparents' house that was always inhabited by children back in the day. It got renovated a couple of years ago and is arguably much nice today than it was, yet I never see anyone there.

Of course, the families that live in that areas had kids at around the same time that my parents did, so it wouldn't be surprising if not a lot of children lived in that area today. Perhaps I will have to wait another generation before younger families move in that area again?

But there are parts of the town where I live that are less old and where I know that young families live there. Still, no kids in the street, as far as I can see.

A bigger factor than lack of open space would probably be things like parents getting accused of neglect for letting their kids be outside by themselves.


Source study


I don't find this surprising. If you have a closer connection to something, you tend to value it more.

I'm curious to know if there is a correlation between climate change deniers and playing outside as well.

Would that, so to speak, be a negative correlation? Seeing how today the no-questions-asked progressive dogma of the deepest concrete city dwellers seems to be to accept even the worst painted climate change scenarios.

For city dwellers, seeing the negative effect of mankind on the environment is as simple as leaving a window open in summer and having to regularly wipe a coating of black dust off the windowsill.

Yes. I would guess, because of this, city dwellers are more susceptible to the idea of anthropogenic effects, while people in rural areas in contrast are used to witnessing a more resilient character in nature.

Rural anecdote from the northwest:

The stream I played in as a kid is now polluted by a feed lot. Cattle are everywhere. Invasive weeds are also everywhere. Native insects are dying off, while their replacements decimate forests, one mountain at a time, heading north. The rivers and streams are full of plastic and algal bloom. Finding a tree that's more than fifty years old is neat. There was a giant fish die-off in the rivers last year. Everyone wants a few acres of their own, but they also want water and sewer, in a nice neighborhood, not too far from town. Subdivisions even trump cattle, the only thing that will beat those out is a natural resource that can be exploited. There are a dozen other environmental issues I could extrapolate on, that are happening just outside my back door, and I live in BFE.

Good times in rural America, nature is really holding up.

This whole city vs. country argument is silly. It's not another species out here; some people care about the environment and some don't, just like anywhere. Will rural populations stay behind the curve on some issues? Of course, but they're still people, like you.

There's certainly a high correlation between belief in science and education as well as how much garbage media is consumed.

"The correlations between expressed views about caring for the environment and environmentally friendly actions were surprising, however, as actions did not necessarily align with beliefs."

I almost never played outside, and I didn't even grow up around "nature" — in garbage-plagued cities, in fact, but maybe that has made me want to protect nature anyway.

this more like playing basketball makes you more likely to become a professional basketball player. i mean, cmon.

Nice result. It feels good too.

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