The European Wilderness Society works with various organisations on an advocacy idea which would enhance the protection of Wilderness across Europe. The idea will be publicly launched during the summer, but we can disclose that one of its central element will be the idea of accepting the right of future generations to access Wilderness. This is why we so much liked Richard Louv’s essay about the Right to Walk in the Woods.
Mr. Louv is Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Children & Nature Network. Here comes a short quote from his essay ”The Nature Principle.”:
Recently I began asking friends this question: Does a child have a right to a walk in the woods? Does an adult? To my surprise, several people responded with puzzled ambivalence. Look at what our species is doing to the planet, they said; based on that evidence alone, isn’t the relationship between human beings and nature inherently oppositional? I certainly understand that point of view….
The basic concept of rights made some people uncomfortable. One friend asked, In a world in which millions of children are brutalized every day, can we spare time to forward a child’s right to experience nature? Good question. Others pointed out that we live in an era of litigation inflation and rights deflation; too many people believe they have a “right” to a parking spot, a “right” to cable TV, even a “right” to live in a neighborhood that bans children. Do we really need to add more “rights” to our catalogue of entitlements? Another good question.
The answer to both questions is yes, if we can agree that the right at issue is fundamental to our humanity, to our being.
A growing body of scientific evidence identifies strong correlations between experience in the natural world and children’s ability to learn, along with their physical and emotional health. Stress levels, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, cognitive functioning—and more—are positively affected by time spent in nature.
We must do more than talk about the importance of nature; we must ensure that children in every kind of neighborhood have everyday access to natural spaces, places, and experiences. To make that happen, this truth must become evident: we can truly care for nature and ourselves only if we see ourselves and nature as inseparable, only if we love ourselves as part of nature, only if we believe that our children have a right to the gifts of nature undestroyed.
Can anyone disagree with these words? The full essay is available here.