29th June 2018 - Beth Collier, nature-based psychotherapist & National Park City Foundation Trustee

Older generations know from experience how nature can help us feel good, it is vital that we ensure younger generations can also discover the beauty and wonder of spending time in nature for themselves.

Today less than one in 10 children play regularly in green spaces, half the number of children who played outdoors a generation ago.  7 out of 10 people feel they are losing touch with nature, 1/3 of people don’t feel they know enough about wildlife to pass knowledge on to their children.  An average 8 year old 100 years ago could roam six miles from their house by themselves, 30 years ago it was half a mile and today many 8 year olds are not allowed onto the street by themselves and are confined inside.

Notwithstanding the myriad reasons why, children not having access to nature is becoming a Child Rights issue.

We’re in danger of normalising a culture of confinement.  In the UK 3/4 of children spend less time outside than prisoners. Children are shuffled from indoors at home to indoors at school and back again.  Indoor orientated lifestyles have led to personal, intimate connections decreasing, and technology being substituted for companionship and parenting.  Confinement is marked by both physical and emotional deprivation, shutting children off from conditions needed to flourish; healthy relationships with people and place.  

No wonder large numbers of children in London feel lonely, isolated, depressed, angry, stressed and unsatisfied.  They are starting life with less physical freedom and less face to face contact with people and the natural world.

Nature deficit is a term used to describe a lack of exposure to nature.   By definition, a deficit is a lack of something that is needed, it is the state of not having enough of something necessary.  Nature deficit is a form of neglect, of lacking something necessary. 

Withholding access to the outdoors is how we punish prisoners.  Encouragement of a relationship with nature is how we should nourish children.

Hopefully we need no other reason than the self-evident truth that a desire to enjoy nature is part of the human condition (and rejection of nature is a sign of an impaired relationship with nature). However, if there is doubt, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a legal and moral imperative that a child’s education should include ‘the development of respect for the natural environment’, and that a child has a right to ‘rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child’.

Enjoyment of nature is an inheritance that we must pass down to children, not just squander on ourselves, leaving younger generations with nothing.  We need to create the conditions for  enjoyment by ensuring that there are accessible natural spaces; by protecting, conserving and introducing green space in the areas where we reside, and ensuring there is a connection to natural spaces by nurturing a family culture of spending time in nature.

9th Feb 2018 - Paul De Zylva, Chair of Trustees

I have some very good news for you. London is on course to be declared the world’s first National Park City in 2019.

This amazing achievement is down to the grassroots support and activity to get official backing for the idea from over 1,000 local and regional politicians, including on the London Assembly and the Mayor of London. 346 of 654 ward teams from across all of London’s boroughs have declared their support so far. We hope they all will.

Such ground level support sums up the ethos of the National Park City idea – locally-driven and owned with official buy-in.

What now?

We’re in a new phase moving from making the case for London to be a National Park City to making this a reality and showing what it means in practice, working with the Mayor of London, local communities and borough councils, and the growing range of businesses, professionals and agencies that want to play their part.

We still need more people to know about the London National Park City so that they can contribute to making it a success.

What can you do now?

The simplest thing is to let others know that London is set be declared the world’s first National Park City. Telling people is bound to raise queries and you can make use of the Q&A on our revamped website. (Do let us know of any questions that aren’t covered which we can help address.)

Of course, being a National Park City will not see London turn into or compete with the Peak District, New Forest, South Downs or other National Parks. It draws on the principles of National Parks but in a city setting, and allows everyone to explore how to improve life across London with more people doing the kind of things that make life especially worthwhile – more time spent in nature outdoors, for instance, a greater sense of place and knowing how we can all make London resilient.

You can also help shape the coming year as we build to the declaration of London National Park City in the first half of 2019. There’s no need to wait for the declaration to be active. Getting planting and outdoors more, letting us know if your event could be badged as part of London National Park City, writing for our website and advising on how to bring London National Park City alive in other ways all count - let us know what you want to do.

This is because to make the London National Park City a success - and make our the city greener, healthier, wilder and more enjoyable - there needs to be good leadership at all levels, from balconies and streets to gardens and schools.

As chair of the trustees of the National Park City Foundation – the body overseeing the idea of National Park Cities in London and beyond – we are working with London National Park City founder, Daniel Raven-Ellison, and many other super volunteers on the behind-the-scenes things which are needed to ensure that the London National Park City is a success.

In May we will confirm precisely when London will become a National Park City and we’ll work out a timetable for its launch. There will be a new website and we’ll announce more of our plans and share more ways for you and everyone else to be involved as an individual, group or organisation.

Thank you so much for all you have done so far - it’s no mean feat. Along with my colleagues I will post more updates. Meanwhile, do let us know how we can help you to make London even better as the world’s first National Park City.

Paul de Zylva
Chair of Trustees
National Park City Foundation

 

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