From the romantic poets to the global reach of Sir David Attenborough, Britain has a reputation as a nature-loving nation.
But the citizens of this supposedly green and pleasant land are ranked last of 14 European nations measured for their “nature connectedness”, according to a new study.
Connectedness with nature is a psychological concept that measures the closeness of an individual’s relationship with other species and the wild world. Studies have shown that people with a high level of connection to nature enjoy better mental health and are more likely to act in an environmentally responsible manner.
The study, published in the journal Ambio, examines which country-scale factors influence the degree of individual closeness to nature, finding the strongest association between biodiversity and connectedness to nature, with individuals living in countries where wild species and landscapes are still intact and enjoy a closer relationship with nature.
Britain is bottom of 14 nations for biodiversity, having lost more wildlife than any other G7 country and has been found to be one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet.
The average age of a population is another country-wide connection to nature, with older people tending to have closer connections to nature – perhaps because there were more of them. around when they were kids or had more freedom to enjoy it.
While high levels of urban dwellers did not necessarily mean a weaker connection to nature, the most decisive negative influences on connection to nature were higher average incomes and smartphone ownership. Countries with a high level of smartphone ownership were strongly associated with a more distant relationship with nature.
Another study found that people who take lots of selfies have less connection to the natural world. The latest study also supports previous research showing that new technologies are more important than urbanization in the decline of nature words in cultural products since the 1950s.
Professor Miles Richardson from the University of Derby, lead author, said: “We are a nation of nature lovers, we cherish our poets, we celebrate our landscape artists and we love our nature documentaries – there’s this perception that we’re a nature-loving nation, but it hurts to be told that what this data strongly suggests is no, it’s not.
He said it was too simplistic to infer that smartphones were a cause of losing connection with nature, but it was part of a spiral of decline in Britain.
“When you lost your biodiversity, you lost your opportunity to engage with it,” he said. “At the same time you have these new opportunities to interact with smartphones or the latest technology. It’s hard to make a causal inference, but it’s probably a spiral of decline – biodiversity is decreasing, a relationship with nature is decreasing and biodiversity is declining again and again.
Analyzing data from 14,745 adults in European countries including Germany, Spain, France and Italy, researchers found that Britons have the weakest connection to nature, a ranking of 3, 71 out of 7 possible. Italy has the most connected citizens with nature, with a ranking of 4.67.
Other high-ranking nations are found in southern or central Europe, such as Portugal, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, while northern European nations have shown the least affinity with the natural world, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Ireland making up the bottom. five above the UK.
According to Richardson, measuring “connectedness with nature” could become a useful tool in tackling the biodiversity crisis, as the concept does not adopt the prevailing Western view of man and nature as separate. , but capturing it as a relationship – as many pre-industrial societies and Eastern philosophies did.
“While we can’t reduce our relationship with nature to a number, the world runs on numbers and there are times when we have to put numbers in front of someone and convince them that something needs to be done,” said Richardson. “It’s a measure for a health – a simple measure for the health of humans and nature.
“We seek to restore natural habitats, but the loss of habitat and biodiversity is a symptom of a broken relationship with nature, and now people see that relationship as the root cause of a decline in nature. [The concept of nature connection] also has a lot to offer when it comes to mental health. If we have a goal to provide two benefits for people and the rest of nature, that seems like a wonderful thing.
Richardson calls on the UN to adopt the concept of connectedness with nature as a sustainable goal, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals currently focusing on issues for people or for nature. “We rarely focus on the interface, on the relationship,” he said. “Sometimes we’re so disconnected that we don’t see the relationship as a tangible thing at all.”