Tag Archives: nature

More green time, less screen time

Planet Ark’s National Tree Day event is considered to be one of the largest, nature-care event in Australia. For over 20 years, the organisation has helped Australians plant more than 20 million trees. The biggest supporters of National Tree Day have been thousands of schools and their students, taking the opportunity to beautify their school grounds and spend a bit of their time outdoors. With an emphasis on local natives, National Tree Day has made a significant contribution to providing habitat for native birds, insects and mammals as well as help absorb and lock away carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But it is not just the environment that has benefitted from this 20 year, nation-wide program. Some of the greatest benefits of National Tree Day have been to the people who have participated in the event. More specifically, the simple act of planting trees has helped redefine our relationship with each other as well as with nature. This is incredibly important, given how hyper-connected and technology dominated our lives have become. Over the past five years, Planet Ark has been researching the impacts technology and reduced nature time is having on society.

Some of the key findings include;

  • 1 in 10 children play outside once a week or less
  • 1 in 4 children have never climbed a tree
  • For every hour we spend outdoors, we spend seven indoors watching tv or surfing the internet
  • 51% of Australians feel stressed, depressed and isolated after visiting social media sites

How much time do we need to spend in nature to get the benefits? In the latest research, Planet Ark is prescribing a minimum daily dose of 10 minutes outside. Even 10 minutes a day has been found to be enough to make us ‘happier, healthier, calmer and smarter’, leading to a more fulfilling life. The most profound benefits of nature-contact have been observed among students and children.

Some of the key findings of the latest research include;

  • People living in green areas are 40% less likely to be overweight or obese
  • 77% of teachers have reported that students perform better in standardised tests when outdoor learning is part of the school curriculum
  • People who work in offices with indoor plants are 17% more productive and come up with more ideas

Many other organisations are now recognising the benefits of nature time to those identified and championed by Planet Ark for 20 years. In Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation is promoting the 30 x 30 Challenge, providing thirty creative ideas for doing something nature related everyday for a month. The National Geographic recently published an article examining the positive impacts nature has on our brains. In the UK, The Wild Network is promoting nature play and learning for children. And this movement to encourage people to have more ‘green time’ and less ‘screen time’ is increasingly supported by medical and academic studies.

One of the greatest things about this ‘nature prescription’ is that it very easy and fun (and cheap). So next time you are feeling a little tired, or feel like you cannot concentrate or stuck on an idea, maybe it is time to head outside. Better yet, take the family and friends and enjoy some quality green time. You never know what you might end up finding in the trees.

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Hanami: A celebration of Nature

 

Hanami, or flower viewing, is an annual Japanese tradition dating back many centuries. It signifies the arrival of spring, when the landscape becomes ornamented by delicate bursts of pink, white and red cherry blossom flowers. The event is eagerly anticipated by locals (and tourists), who decorate their surroundings in splashes of pink and red. The excitement is such that even the daily weather reports on television feature segments about when and where the first cherry blossom blooms will occur.

This year, I was lucky enough to be in Japan during the peak of the cherry blossom season. During my first weekend in Japan, I made my way to Ueno Park, a popular destination for hanami. The park has been a dedicated public green-space since the 1870s and it’s sheer size is impressive, particularly for a highly concentrated metropolis like Tokyo. Despite its size, Ueno was very busy. I saw many people sitting under the pink cherry blossom canopies, enjoying food, drinks, music and games. Market stalls, buskers, and street food vendors all add to the atmosphere.

People were so caught up in the hanami that they did not seem to mind us tourists weaving our way through the mosaic of picnic blankets. The beauty of the cherry blossoms and the celebrations had me mesmerised as well. I forgot the fact that there were a number of shrines, two museums and a zoo at Ueno Park. At night, the fairy lights and paper lanterns that ornament the cherry blossoms make them more magical. The cherry blossoms captivated me even as they wilted and rained down like pink snow and littered the ground.

I must admit, I was a little envious that the Japanese people and their hanami. Seeing the delicate pink and red cherry blossom flowers stop an industrious nation made me wonder what type of impact a similar celebration will have in Australia. A celebration which transcends the occasional bushwalk or trip to the beach. One where the entire nation stops and collectively enjoys being outdoors, reconnecting with nature and their family and friends. Many organisations in Australia are actively seeking ways to encourage people to spend time outdoors. The health, wellbeing and economic benefits of reconnecting with nature are well documented.  Maybe it is time for us to come up with our own hanami.