Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2012 3:53:24 PM
Having lived in two urban environments, both of which are teeming with resources, opportunities for learning, and diversity, I know that natural settings are not the only places where a child can emotionally and intellectually engage. Moreover, living in an urban environment, even one as busy and congested as New York City, does not necessarily mean that your everyday life is devoid of nature. I do not simply mean Central Park or other similarly cultivated and confined green areas; rather, nature is what makes cities possible, since their operations rely on what happens outside their borders. For instance, the food for all the restaurants isn’t exactly grown on an Upper East Side farm. Also, city dwellers rely on reservoirs from upstate New York and Westchester County for their water supply.
Unfortunately, many people begin to take these conveniences for granted if they don’t have daily contact with nature. In fact, lives are built around subverting, exploiting, controlling and reversing nature: sunscreen deflects uv rays, umbrellas protect against rain, air conditioners and heaters make outdoor temperatures a non-issue, cars help connect geographic distances, feats of civil engineering negate the Earth’s contours and forces.
People often forget that nature is at once more powerful and more delicate than we are, able to wreak havoc with natural disasters yet relying heavily on a precise balance that human activities often upset. Kids don’t necessarily need to spend more time with grass under their feet, but it is crucial for them to gain a deeper appreciation for all that nature does for us: it is not simply a nuisance, but is rather our very source of life.
Luckily, no matter where children are, they can still connect with the world around them if they make an effort to do so. Individuals of all ages can make small but meaningful gestures to preserve nature, whether that means turning off their computers at night and flicking off all lights when they leave the house to conserve electricity, opting for reusable bags over plastic ones, taking shorter showers or recycling bottles and cans. If parents instill these habits in their children, then the kids will grow up with an understanding that no matter where they are, they are still custodians of something bigger and more important: the environment. To say that only physically being in nature can inspire this understanding, though, is false.