My new draft report Sowing the Seeds: Reconnecting children with nature calls for the outdoor child to be seen as an ‘indicator species’. The report, written for the London Sustainable Development Commission (the body that advises the Mayor of London on sustainability) argues that, just as with salmon or house sparrows, the presence of children out of doors should be seen as a measure of the quality of neighbourhoods, London Boroughs and the capital as a whole.
The report offers a new vision for London’s children, calling for the Mayor and key agencies to ensure that “all children under 12 in London have good access to sites where they can experience nature as part of their everyday lives and have engaging everyday nature experiences in such a site, beginning in their pre-school years”. A central message is that experiences of nature that are hands-on and play-oriented are especially valuable.
The report gives London’s decision makers a blueprint for responding to concerns about children’s growing disconnection from the natural environment, as highlighted in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Research for the report included a new systematic review of studies into the benefits for children of time spent in nature. The project also carried out the first comprehensive assessment of London’s natural initiatives for children, covering activities in schools, nature areas, play projects, parks and public spaces, and community and voluntary organisations.
Here are the 12 recommendations in brief:
- Adopt a clear vision
- Create a London wide partnership
- Embed children and nature aims in relevant London wide policies and strategies
- Identify geographical priorities using new GIS analyses
- Measure progress and set goals to drive delivery
- Pilot health interventions for targeted groups of children
- Promote hands-on, play-oriented experiences and interventions
- Promote better use of accessible green space
- Promote forest school
- Promote engaging everyday nature experiences in school grounds
- Promote risk-benefit assessment
- Promote children’s participation
What do you think – are these the right actions? Which ones are the most important? Is anything missing? Give your thoughts here. Let the LSDC know as well. A four-page executive summary and response form are available on the LSDC website. The report and recommendations are out for consultation until 1 September, and a final version is due to be launched on 30 September. Anyone interested in obtaining the full draft report should email the LSDC at LSDC@london.gov.uk.