Study: How has the pandemic changed our relationship with nature?

During the pandemic, we have seen a resurgence of animal populations and cleaner air and water, but we have also witnessed a fundamental shift in many people’s personal relationship with nature. When the great outdoors is one of the few places you can safely have recreation, we gain a newfound appreciation for our open spaces. A team of researchers from the University of Vermont (UVM) is diving deeper into how the pandemic has changed our relationship with nature and what implications that could hold for environmentalism. 

In their study, researchers scattered QR survey codes throughout urban forests and parks in the Burlington area. They found that 26 percent of visitors who responded had not been there in the past year and the majority reported highly valuing the opportunity to get out into nature during this stressful period of isolation. 

Senior author Brendan Fisher, Ph.D. said, “My hope is that these are the kind of gateway experiences that get people more engaged with their local nature.”

Another study, also from UVM, found that a significant number of people had engaged in more outdoor activities since the pandemic began. Whether through hiking, gardening, or watching wildlife, people are spending more time outside. A significant 59 percent of respondents also reported that nature had also helped improve their mental health and well-being during the pandemic. 

The researchers hope this data will help inform public space allocation decisions and strengthen the case for nature-based mental health and education programs. Perhaps if humans pay more attention to how nature helped them through this difficult period, they will be more compelled to engage in conservation.

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