Condor, Taronga Zoo, Sydney
The death of ‘experience’ spells yet another danger for global wildlife. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Young people losing touch with outdoors

‘The average Australian child spends less time being active outdoors than a maximum security prisoner.’

That has to be the most ‘arresting’ opening sentence of all time.

The shock finding is at the core of new research by Queensland-based ecologists Danielle Shanahan and Richard Fuller.

‘The Extinction of Experience’ is a global phenomenon based on the notion that, for most humans, their experience of nature has been extinguished.

Only over-45s understand

In southeast Queensland where Shanahan and Fuller’s Research Council-funded project is focused, it is clear that understanding of nature is much higher in people over 45 than those under that age.

In a 2016 Wildlife Australia article, the ecologists say their work and that of others at the University of Queensland is part of a growing international study of a declining experience of nature, and what that means for people and conservation.

The implication is that people who don’t experience nature for themselves are unlikely to value it.

Faster recovery

Shanahan and Fuller say evidence is mounting that an extinction of nature experience is also detrimental for people’s health and wellbeing. They cite faster recovery from surgery for hospital patients with a view of trees, and reduced cardio-vascular death rate for people living near green spaces.

However,  when it comes to motivating conservation, they say the importance of experiences with nature and the psychology behind it are not well understood. “But it makes intuitive sense. As Robert Pyle said back in 1978, what is the extinction of the condor [above] to a child who has never seen a wren?”


©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


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