Can City-Dwellers Be Conservationists?

Does living in a city mean you’re less connected to the natural world? A scientist from The Nature Conservancy tackled this question recently on TNC’s website feature, ‘Ask the Conservationist’:

Rob McDonald, the Nature Conservancy’s senior scientist for sustainable land use, explored the question as to whether or not city-dwellers can be conservationists and how connected a person can be with the natural world if they do not experience it often.

“The key is making sure that every child has at least some formative experience in nature.”

Surely city-dwellers realize the benefits of nature - fresh air, clean water - but do they realize exactly where their food comes from? They most likely have less knowledge about how a forest system works  than a logger does, but does that mean that they don’t care?

History suggests otherwise; the major victories for the environmental movement - The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, The Endangered Species Act, The Montreal Protocol - were all advocated for primarily by city-dwellers. People living in urban areas realize that their cities need nature to thrive and that protecting the environment is in their own best interest.

However, recent evidence suggests that having valuable experiences with nature is correlated to caring about the environment.

How can conservationists make sure that city-dwellers end up caring about the environment?  The Nature Conservancy says that “the key is making sure that every child has at least some formative experience in nature”.

This is where Gathering Waters Conservancy and Wisconsin’s land trusts fit in: The more places we protect and make available to adults and kids, the more opportunities we can provide to connect people and nature.

What do you think?  Let us know here.