Connection to Nature is Necessary to Save the Environment

Nature connectedness, or connection to nature, is a psychological construct that captures the extent to which individuals include nature as part of their identity. Three components make up this construct. Cognitive; how integrated they are with nature. Affective; an individual’s sense of care for nature. Behavioral; an individual’s commitment to protecting natural environments. More than 17 scales have been developed to measure nature connectedness, each of which measures a single or all three dimensions of nature connectedness. Many studies have used these scales to understand the relationship between connection to nature and various human traits, including wellbeing and pro-environmental behavior (PEB)2. PEB is becoming increasingly important in environmental psychology as it has the potential to have a powerful effect on environmental policy.

We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well – for we will not fight to save what we do not love. Stephen Jay Gould in “Love it or Lose it: The Coming Biophilia Revolution”

All studies consistently report a positive association between connection to nature and PEB. Individuals who exhibit high nature connectedness tend to engage in activities that protect the environment, such as recycling3. In other words, feeling connected to nature affects how an individual interacts with nature and broadly increases PEB and biodiversity conservation, having an invaluable planetary impact. Conversely, a lack of connection to nature is blamed for apathy toward environmental protection and degradation4. More notably, although all studies concentrate on the adult population, related studies on children confirm these findings5

The steady decline of natural experiences poses a significant risk to new generations and the environment, hindering their ability to build and sustain a strong connection with nature and PEB. We discuss the causes behind this nature disconnect in  previous posts; they include technology, dominant urbanism, and new working patterns. What is the future of a society that cannot connect with the very resources it ought to protect to survive?

All the current efforts chipping at this problem have an outdoor focus; their primary goal is to encourage natural experiences outdoors and therefore depend on the availability and accessibility of green spaces. To mention a few of these programs: Outdoor programs that aim to increase people’s participation –especially children– in outdoor activities such as school gardening. US legislation seeking to increase funding for projects that improve greenery access in urbanized areas. The growing adoption of green prescriptions to improve health outcomes and wellbeing. Emerging tech solutions such as NatureQuant to help users track their outdoor exposure to green spaces. 

At Humegy, we take an inside-out approach. We bring the greenery indoors, where we spend 90% of our time, to help users broadly increase their connection with nature. And although we believe there is no substitute for spending time in nature outdoors, we recognize that green spaces are not always accessible and available to everyone –especially those who need them the most.  A recent Trust of Public Land6report gives great insight into this reality in the US. We posit that a more robust nature connectedness indoors leads to great interest in experiencing the outdoors. As such, our approach complements other efforts that promote outdoor activities with the common goal of renewing human relationships with nature and improving societal wellbeing and pro-environmental behavior and attitude. Like with most complex social and environmental issues, there is no single solution to the nature disconnect we are experiencing as a society. By chipping at these problems from multiple directions, we are more likely to succeed. 

1 Schultz W. Inclusion with Nature: The Psychology Of Human-Nature Relations.

2 Mackay, C. M., & Schmitt, M. T. (2019). Do people who feel connected to nature do more to protect it? A meta-analysis. Journal of Environmental Psychology65, 101323

3 Whitburn J, Linklater WL, Milfont TL. Exposure to Urban Nature and Tree Planting Are Related to Pro-Environmental Behavior via Connection to Nature, the Use of Nature for Psychological Restoration, and Environmental Attitudes. Environment and Behavior. 2019;51(7):787-810. doi:10.1177/0013916517751009

4 Pyle, R. (2003). Nature matrix: Reconnecting people and nature. Oryx, 37(2), 206-214. doi:10.1017/S0030605303000383

5 Chawla, L. (2020). Childhood nature connection and constructive hope: A review of research on connecting with nature and coping with environmental loss. People and Nature, 2(2), 619-642.

6 Trust for Public Land. (2021) Parks and An Equitable Recovery Parkscore Report.