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Where will the children play?

We must ask ourselves this question; among many others.

What will become of a generation of children who no longer can be found running in the meadows, making mud pies, climbing trees or collecting insects? What will the world look like when these little ones grow and begin making political decisions? What will their values be? Where will nature be found?

The modern child, as an indicator species, is spending more and more time indoors, in front of screens; entertaining themselves with video games, smart phones, television. Hidden away from the elements of life. Their senses dulled and their wonder untapped. In parallel to this deeply rooted concern there has been a rise in childhood obesity, an attention deficit and cases of depression. In my eyes, this is a cry for change.

It has been said that nature is as essential to us as food and sleep. To me, no one should be cut off from the joys of her gifts; especially the children. So sensitive. So easily influenced and moulded.

So let’s bring back the free range childhood. Let’s get muddy. Let’s build forts. Let’s observe the details and let our imaginations roam into the mystical reality of the living world instead of isolating ourselves.

I am here in China to develop a further understanding of how to re-ignite this bond with nature. Environmental Education initiatives can provide individuals with an introduction into the natural world. Experiences that give birth to awareness, values and ultimately environmental citizen behaviour that is more harmonious with the earth.

I know that my love, appreciation and mind have been so graciously shaped by my childhood experiences in nature. Observing, discovering and growing both physically and mentally. I am also coming to learn, through the informal inquiries into the lives of my fellow conservation minded and nature lovers, that this also holds true for them.

I feel fortunate to watch the children come to XTBG to participate in the nature programs. Smelling the smells, running at top speed, getting their hands dirty, laughing in play, exploring on their own terms and relishing in the endless and delicate beauty of nature. Reigning from the big, populated cities of China, I can only hope that these experiences will be long lasting. That the spark has been lit and that the connection sealed.

Publication date: 21 February 2015

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