Interacting with nature

Interacting with Nature

A report on a six-year programme designed to bring together the youth and environmental sectors by involving young people across the UK in nature projects suggests that participation boosted mental health, self-confidence and employability. It says that participants were consistently found to be more confident, skilled, happier and able to find work as a result of their participation. The aims of Our Bright Future chime with those of Life-Based Learning, which is also all about engagement and participation. And at the heart of LBL is the belief that young people need to be learning about and experiencing plant life and nature in a thorough and systematic way, not least because, as more and more research demonstrates, our health and wellbeing benefit from contact with the plant world and nature more generally.

Led by the Wildlife Trusts and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, the £33 million programme ran from 2016 to 2021 and was made up of 31 projects across the UK, helping young people aged 11–24 “gain vital skills and experience and improve their wellbeing”. The projects also acted as “catalysts for delivering change for their local environment and community” and contributed to a greener economy.

Ranging in scale, from local to national, projects focused on activities such as involving young people in practical environmental conservation, engaging them in vocational training and work experience, supporting them to develop their own campaigns around environmental issues and helping them to start their own sustainable enterprises.

Quoted from the Our Bright Future final evaluation report

More than 128,000 people aged 11 to 24 took part in the programme. According to a participant impact study quoted in the report:

  • 86% (of respondents) felt that their mental health and wellbeing improved at least ‘somewhat’
  • 40% saw ‘a lot’ of improvement in their mental health and wellbeing
  • 95% felt that their self-confidence had improved at least ‘somewhat’
  • 52% saw ‘a lot’ of improvement in their confidence

Our natural world is the bedrock of our society but it is under serious pressure. This report proves just how important it is to give young people practical experience to learn about nature and climate. We need to foster a new generation of green leaders to find solutions to the biggest environmental challenges of our time.

Craig Bennett, the chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, quoted in the Guardian

In our blog Agency and empowerment will help counter fatalism and climate anxiety, we wrote about the positive impact on mental wellbeing of getting involved in helping to bring about change for the better. Our blogs regularly highlight activities, initiatives and campaigns that individuals, families, schools and communities can take part in to help improve the environment and build a sustainable future. For example, our blog A fantastic gateway into the world of nature pointed out how citizen science projects like Fruitwatch help us to appreciate and value what the world around us provides.

We regularly blog about the importance of nature and the environment for health and wellbeing. For example, in December 2021 we focused on a report calculating the benefit in monetary terms of woodland visits — nearly £200 million per year.

In our blog Getting involved with nature is a great way to deal with eco-anxiety, we highlighted the growing popularity of ‘green social prescribing’ — where individuals and, increasingly, health and community services use nature to boost mental wellbeing.

And in blogs like Immersing children in nature from a young age is a massive win-win we promote the twin benefits — to education and to health — of putting nature at the very heart of children’s lives, regardless of whether they live in the middle of the countryside or the middle of a city.

Access to nature has a profound effect not only on young people’s environmental awareness but also on their physical and mental wellbeing. I hope others recognise that there is a huge appetite among young people to work towards a better future for us all.

Mya-Rose Craig, the founder of Black2Nature and a Wildlife Trusts ambassador, quoted in the Guardian

Read More About Nature and the Environment

Image at the head of this article by Mircea – See my collections from Pixabay.

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