Reconnecting with the Great Outdoors

 Reconnecting with the Great Outdoors 

This time of year is so exciting as people all over the nation participate in the Great American Cleanup and show their love and appreciation for the places where they live, work, visit and play. We've always known that engaging people in these cleanup events helps to strengthen the bond with our natural environment. We strive continuously to make sure these educational messages involve our youth and hope that everything comes together in such a way that our future stewards of the environment are fashioned in the process. But first, we must build that appreciation of the great outdoors.

A recently released study, "The Nature of Americans National Report: Disconnection and Recommendations For Reconnection," makes it clear that more Americans are feeling less and less of a connection to our great outdoors. Think about it. As adults, it's so easy to get wrapped up in a hectic lifestyle of work and taking care of families that finding time to simply get outside is more of a luxury than a reality. Of the 12,000 adults and children (8 - 12 years old) interviewed for this study, more than half of the adults reported spending five hours or less in nature each week and most were satisfied with this minimal amount of time. Parents interviewed as part of the study reported that their 8 to 12 year old children spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside. 

Believing that the interest is still there to get outside, how do we reverse the trend and instill the appreciation of the environment and the love of the great outdoors in those who are missing out? The report has many good recommendations to restore this connection, but one in particular stands out as it relates to Keep Florida Beautiful (KFB) and the Florida Affiliates. Promote nature not only as a place for experiences, but also as a place for involvement and care. And what better way to do connect with nature than to attend a fun-filled Great American Cleanup/Trash-Off event? 

As one scrolls through the KFB social media sites and looks at the posts of events happening all over the state, the smiles of the volunteers tell the story. Whether it's cleaning up a historic cemetery or park, kayaking along the shores of a river, planting trees or community gardens, the emphasis is the same. Let's have some fun while we're outside doing good things! Our efforts to involve youth as well as adults have never been more important and it's good to know we have added reasons for doing these good deeds.

Many thanks to KFB Board Member Jerrie Lindsey, Director of Public Access and Wildlife Viewing Services at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, for sharing this valuable report. To read the report in full and learn more ways to reconnect, please visit www.NatureofAmericans.org

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