The great biologist Edward O Wilson hypothesised that humans are hard-wired to crave the natural world, and this begins in early childhood. On a positive note, an innate need to spend time in the woods means we're less likely to destroy them.
Author Richard Louv says that kids in particular are suffering from nature deficit disorder brought about by a lack of exposure to nature. His book Last Child in the Woods has anecdotes that are as heart-breaking as the title. Kids all over the world talk animatedly about cartoon whales, but can't describe a simple flower in front of them.
Children in China are particularly affected. The landscape has been urbanised so quickly that nature has been all but eradicated in the concrete jungle. Even natural sounds such as chirping cicadas have gone. Research shows indifference turns to fear. Biophilia changes to biophobia. If you actively dislike nature, you're more likely to build a car park on it.
Your granny-fussing is increasingly backed up by research, much of it from China itself. Friends of Nature, China's oldest NGO, leads a campaign for kids to get out more. However, there remains a critical lack of truly natural reserves, such as wetlands. So when your grandkids are visiting, fill their boots (wellies) with trips to our natural parks and the brilliant wildernesswood.co.uk (where they somehow make natural woodland as compelling as video games).
No nationalistic complacency, please. The relationship between children and nature in the UK is…
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