For Release Thursday, January 3, 2013
For many people, thinking about the future conjures images from movies like Blade Runner or Mad Max: a post-apocalyptic dystopia stripped of nature and human kindness. We seem drawn to that flame, but it’s a dangerous fixation.
There are many reasons for the attraction – global threats to the environment, economic hard times, decades of disconnection between children and nature – but there’s a fundamental problem with it. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that any movement – any culture – will fail if it cannot paint a picture of a world people will want to go to.
Despite undeniable successes, environmentalism is in trouble: Many recent polls describe a public with diminishing regard for environmental concerns. What we need now is a new nature movement, one that includes but goes beyond the good practices of traditional environmentalism and sustainability, and paints a compelling, inspiring portrait of a society better than the one we live in – not just a survivable world, but a nature-rich world in which our children and grandchildren thrive.
This new nature movement, inchoate and self-organizing, is already emerging.
It revives old concepts in health and urban planning (Frederick Law Olmsted, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Muir come to mind). It also adds new ones, based on research showing the power of nearby wilderness and natural areas to improve our psychological and physical health, cognitive functioning and economic and social well-being. Colorado University professor Louise Chawla describes the basis of the movement as “the idea that as humans we can not only make our ecological footprints as light as possible, but we can actually leave places better than when we came to them, making them places of delight.”