Not all nature is created equal

accreditation

Access to nature is growing harder for urban folks to find, with relatively wild places few and far between.

Now, researchers with the University of Washington (UW), in Seattle, have found that not all forms of nature equally benefit human well-being. Wildness is especially important for both physical and mental health, the new study finds.

"It was clear from our results that different kinds of nature can have different effects on people," said lead author Elizabeth Lev, a graduate student in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. "The wilder areas in an urban park seem to be affording more benefits to people – and their most meaningful interactions depended on those relatively wild features."

The research team focused on Discovery Park, a 500-acre park that is a 20-minute drive from downtown Seattle. The park's advisory board asked the study team to pinpoint the most important elements of a park visit.

A written summary

Senior study author Peter Kahn said, "We looked at Discovery Park, but this is about the entire planet." Kahn is a UW professor of environmental and forest sciences and psychology.

"Everywhere, development is chipping away at wild areas. Humanity has caused so much destruction and there's no stopping it – unless we stop," he said in a university news release. "We're trying to show that if you're going to develop an area, you at least need to understand the human costs."

For the study, hundreds of park-goers were asked to provide a written summary about a meaningful interaction with nature experienced at the park. The qualitative data was then coded into different categories.

Wellspring of human existence

After analysing submissions from 320 participants, the researchers discovered a pattern. Most notably, interactions including wildlife encounters, walking along a water's edge or gazing at a scenic view were most important.

"We're losing the language of interaction with nature and as we do, we also lose the cultural practice of these deep forms of interaction with nature, the wellsprings of human existence," Kahn said.

The study was published recently in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Cities.

Image credit: Unsplash

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Gauteng DA leader Solly Msimanga says the party's voters want it to explore conditional coalition talks with the ANC. 
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
It's a step in the right direction. An ANC-DA coalition would be the most stable option for SA
32% - 3839 votes
The DA should focus on working with all opposition parties, including the EFF, to unseat the ANC
15% - 1715 votes
The DA should rather remain in opposition than form a coalition with the ANC or the EFF
53% - 6271 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.28
-1.6%
Rand - Pound
20.86
-2.7%
Rand - Euro
18.02
-2.7%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.75
-3.4%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-2.4%
Gold
1,769.59
+1.1%
Silver
22.18
+4.3%
Palladium
1,890.69
+2.7%
Platinum
1,041.50
+3.5%
Brent Crude
83.03
-0.2%
Top 40
68,564
+2.6%
All Share
74,828
+2.3%
Resource 10
73,434
+2.8%
Industrial 25
90,489
+2.7%
Financial 15
16,396
+1.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE