London moves to reconnect children with nature

Sowing the seeds report front coverMy new report Sowing the Seeds: Reconnecting children with nature was launched at City Hall yesterday morning. The report, written for the London Sustainable Development Commission (the body that advises the Mayor of London on sustainability) sets out a new vision for children’s relationship with nature, and maps out an action plan to reintroduce nature into their lives.

Sowing the Seeds 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 their ‘habitats’. A central message is that children’s engagement with nature has to become more hands-on, more playful and a more everyday part of their lives.

The event was described by Alison Barnes, LSDC Commissioner and Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park, as a “watershed moment”. Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London’s Director of Environment and Digital London, welcomed the report. He also undertook to ensure that the GLA was represented on the interim steering group that is being set up by the LSDC to take the work forward.

In parallel with the project, it emerged that London’s leading nature conservation agencies are preparing a manifesto for London with the forthcoming mayoral elections in mind, and that reconnecting children and young people with nature will be a central theme.

The 130 or so delegates also got a taste of a major documentary film that will be made by award-winning production company Green Lions. The programme has already secured a promised broadcast slot with Channel 4, and is being made with financial support from the National Trust, multinational food cooperative Arla and the NHS.

Closing the meeting Paul de Zylva, Director, Friends of the Earth England and another LSDC Commissioner, urged people with an interest to support the initiative and contact the LSDC with their views and ideas. Alongside the full report, LSDC has also published an executive summary. My literature review has also been produced as a separate stand-alone paper, so it can be shared and referenced to help make the case for action nationally and internationally.

Sowing the seeds report back coverSpeaking personally, I am particularly excited about the potential for this project to take roots and grow, following on from its ‘soft launch’ in July. Alongside the steering group, the LSDC has already secured the support of a dozen or so organisations, whose logos are on the report’s back cover. Even though these are challenging times for taking forward new initiatives, the signs are that a powerful coalition is taking shape: one that could realise a compelling vision of a good childhood for the capital’s children.

21 responses to “London moves to reconnect children with nature

  1. This is excellent news! Congratulations Tim.
    I hope this leads to some understanding and changes in attitudes towards children and nature, and eventually investment in strategically improving the local natural playable environment across the city for the benefit of all London’s children.

  2. Great work. We will need you back in Canada to move political mountains here! Shawna

  3. The event and your post made me feel some of the excitement of getting outdoors with young children. To me, the most important part of the discussion was the emphasis on the links between child poverty, and impoverished play opportunities for children. Too many of London’s estates have landscaped spaces that aren’t play-friendly, and are bordered by roads that are practically motorways. Yet there is so much to be hopeful about, like the Eric St community garden to take just one example. Keep on keeping on….

  4. Neil, Shawna, Julian – thanks for the supportive comments. Shawna – always happy to come back to Canada!
    Julian – I absolutely agree that it’s vital that the work tackles the barriers faced by disadvantaged children and families. There is lots of scope for targetting interventions, drawing on the excellent datasets managed by Natural England and the delightfully named GiGL (Greenspace Information for Greater London), who were both very helpful when I was writing the report.
    Eric St is not so very far from your office, I reckon, and well worth a visit. I gather that the Chief Executive of East End Homes (who was at the launch) was listening with interest, which is encouraging.

  5. Congratulations to the launching of such a meaningful project. In Hong Kong, we have also started an environmental play project. It is indeed very important to reconnect children with nature, which is embedded with rich play resources for children to explore and play.

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  8. Kathy – thanks for your warm words, and good luck with your project in Hong Kong. My guess is you’ve got a lot to do in that city!

  9. Hi Tim- in your posting on the Earthplay site you mentioned ” based on a systematic analysis of the empirical evidence – that children’s engagement with nature needs to become more playful.” What do you mean by more playful? less didatcic? and where is that research from?
    Thanks, Sashie

    • Hi Sashie – nice to see you here. My follow-up post on the literature review probably answers your questions. You may also want to download and read the literature review itself. Get back to me by email if you have any further questions.

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