People who live in more built up areas and spend less free time in nature are less likely to take actions that benefit the environment, such as recycling, buying eco-friendly products or volunteering to protect the environment.
A new study led by the University of Exeter has found that policies that preserve and develop urban green spaces and also support urban populations reconnect with nearby nature could help meet sustainability targets and reduce carbon emissions.
The study, which looked at people’s exposure to nature in their local area, recreational visits to natural environments like parks and beaches, and the extent to which they value the natural world, found that people who lived in greener neighbourhoods or at the coast were more likely to make green choices. The same holds true for those who regularly visited natural spaces, regardless of where they lived. The findings were consistent for men and women, young and old, and rich and poor.
“Over 80% of the English population now live in urban areas and are increasingly detached from the natural world,” said lead author Ian Alcock from the University of Exeter. “Greening our cities is often proposed to help us adapt to climate change – for example, city parks and trees can reduce urban heat spots. But our results suggest urban greening could help reduce the damaging behaviours which cause environmental problems in the first place by reconnecting people to the natural word.”
According to co-author Mat White, the findings are consistent with other studies that have shown that people become more pro-environmental after time spent in natural settings.
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