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International News Round Up


National Parks Are Open — with Some Changes — amid Virus

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Wednesday temporarily waived National Park Service entrance fees to make it easier for people to get outdoors and “implement some social distancing.” The National Park Service says it’s adhering to the latest guidelines from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vowing to keep outdoor spaces open while giving park superintendents the power to close or modify operations.

Coronavirus: Concern over Lack of Social Distancing During Outdoor Walks

In Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has raised concerns that people out walking in parks and elsewhere outdoors are failing to maintain advised social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.The parks service called on “individuals to avoid congregating closely in large groups, even in these outdoor areas,” and to maintain 6.5 feet between each person in walking groups.

Dutch Cities Giving Disabled Children Equal Access to Outdoor Play

Councilors in the Dutch city of Breda have launched a national campaign to give equal opportunities for outdoor play to children with disabilities. Breda is the latest Dutch city to raise the issue of an outdoor play provision for Dutch children. Over the next two years, the aim is to raise awareness of ‘play for everyone’ in the Netherlands, whether the child is able-bodied or disabled.

Global Call to Cut Urban Road Speed Limits

The 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety (Ministerial Conference) held in Stockholm, Sweden has called on countries to impose mandatory 20mph limits in urban areas to help cut deaths and injuries to pedestrians, including many children. Held in the final year of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, the conference brought government Ministers together to extend the 2020 target to reduce road deaths and serious injuries to 2030. The program has the support of dozens of countries worldwide.

Study Reveals Positive Connection Between Nature Experiences and Happiness

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) used social media and artificial intelligence (AI) to look at the connection between nature experiences and happiness. The team analyzed over 31,500 photographs across 185 countries on social media with the help of an automated image recognition technology, finding global evidence of the biophilia hypothesis, or of human’s innate tendency to seek connection with nature. The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Dwindling Numbers of School-age Children in US Cities

As the income gap becomes more pronounced in US cities, the number of school-age children is dropping as families move out to the suburbs. In 2018 about 12 percent of children aged 17 and under lived in the principal city of a metropolitan area, down from 14.6 percent in 2010. In addition, data from the national Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that the percentage of children aged five and under in these central cities fell from 16 percent in 2010 to 13.9 percent in 2018.

As Outdoor Preschools Spread, States Debate How to Keep Kids Safe

Outdoor or nature-based preschools have expanded dramatically in recent years, from just a handful of programs a decade ago to more than 400 across the US today. Now, as outdoor preschools look for a way to expand, the schools and their supporters are pushing states to consider licensing programs, even in places where children can encounter wild animals or poisonous plants.

Better Access to Nature, Even Just Your Local Park, Helps People and the Planet

New research from the European Centre for Environmental and Human Health at the University of Exeter shows that people who spend time in nature are more likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviors. Using data from more than 24,000 English adults, the researchers found that exposure to nature, including strolling through a city park, makes people more likely to recycle; get around in greener ways, like walking and biking; buy local and seasonal produce; and engage in environmental volunteering.

Study Investigates Reasons Why Screen Time Reduces Time Spent Outdoors

A recent study from Canadian researchers found that adolescents consider being outdoors less important than access to screens. The study, which was published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, also found that the addictive nature of screen time was a barrier to connecting with nature for this group.

Experiencing Wilderness Keeps Us Happy, so We Should Protect It Even in Cities

New research led by University of Washington researchers found that experiencing wilderness is important for our physical and mental health. The study, based in Discovery Park in Seattle, reports that exposure to wilderness is especially important in urban landscapes, even compared to other types of natural areas. The research was prompted by the park’s advisory board, which asked the team to find out which elements are most important for park-goers in order to better inform decision-makers.

Study: Children Who Grow up Feeling Close to Nature Are Happier and More Likely to Care for the Planet

According to a research team in Mexico, children who grow up feeling close to nature are happier and more likely to become eco-friendly, compared to those who suffer from nature deficit disorder. The researchers surveyed nearly 300 children to find a link between ecological and sustainable awareness and feelings of happiness. The study is the first to show that connectedness to nature makes children happier due to their tendency to perform sustainable and pro-ecological behaviors.

New York State Senate Passes Outdoor Rx Act in Unanimous Vote

The New York State Senate passed the Outdoor Rx Act which will lower barriers for veterans to access New York State’s scenic and restorative outdoor spaces. More than 800,000 veterans live in New York State, but numerous barriers often prevent them from exercising their human right to access nature.

Spending Time in Nature May Lower Stress, Anxiety

New research from an interdisciplinary Cornell team has found that as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting can help college students feel happier and lessen the effects of both physical and mental stress. The research, published in Frontiers in Psychology, is part of a larger examination of the therapeutic benefits of nature for college students.

New Report Warns That the World Is Failing to Give Children Healthy Lives

No single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures, says a major new report by over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world. The report references UNICEF’s work in child-friendly cities, with an emphasis on walkability, outdoor play, and green space in cities for the benefit of children.

Playing Freely in Nature May Boost Complex Thinking, Social Skills in Kids

Researchers from the University of South Australia found that nature play positively impacts the health and development of children ages two to 12. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that nature play improved children’s levels of physical activity, health-related fitness, motor skills, learning, and social and emotional development. It also showed that nature play may deliver improvements in cognitive and learning outcomes, including children’s levels of attention and concentration, punctuality, settling in class (even after play), constructive play, social play, as well as imaginative and functional play.

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