By Brendon M. H. Larson, Bob Fischer and Susan Clayton.
Should we still encourage children to connect to nature? Many people, especially parents, are committed to the idea that children should learn to love and value nature. Given widespread environmental decline, such as climate change and species loss, does this simply make children vulnerable to pain and loss? We critically examine arguments for connecting children to nature that are based on the wellbeing of children as well as the wellbeing of nature. For example, research showing that nature is good for children does not necessarily say that healthy, wild ecosystems are better than a manicured urban park; nor does it say that the benefits from nature will necessarily outweigh the pain of watching it deteriorate. While there is an argument for encouraging a connection to nature as part of a cultural heritage, something passed on from parent to child, this argument does not reflect anything distinctive about nature itself. Meanwhile, if children should connect to nature in order to defend it more passionately, it might actually be better for them to learn to connect to the degraded nature that they may actually be confronted with, rather than an idealized nature that is arguably already past. We come to a partial resolution of this thorny dilemma by arguing that there are still benefits from this connection for both humans and nature, even if they are not as complete as they are often considered to be; and that there is value in the process of connecting to nature, even if the outcome is outside our control.