EarthTalk: My kids just want to play videos games
and watch TV all day. Do you have any tips for getting them
outside to appreciate nature more?
have found that children who play outside more are
in better shape, more creative, less aggressive
and show better concentration than their couch potato
kids away from computer and TV screens and outside into
the fresh air is an increasing challenge for parents everywhere.
Researchers have found that U.S. children today spend about
half as much time outdoors as their counterparts did 20
years ago. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that kids
aged eight to 18 spend on average more than seven and a
half hours a dayor some 53+ hours per weekengaging
with so-called entertainment media. Meanwhile, the Children
& Nature Network (C&NN), a non-profit founded by
writers and educators concerned about nature deficit
disorder, finds that, in a typical week, only six
percent of American kids aged nine to 13 plays outside on
Richard Louv, a founding board member of C&NN and author
of the book, Last Child in the Woods, kids who stay inside
too much can suffer from nature deficit disorder
which can contribute to a range of behavioral problems including
attention disorders, depression and declining creativity
as well as physical problems like obesity. Louv blames parental
paranoia about potential dangers lurking outdoors and restricted
access to natural areascombined with the lure of video
games, websites and TV.
Of course, one
of the keys to getting kids to appreciate nature is for
parents to lead by example by getting off the couch and
into the outdoors themselves. Since kids love being with
their parents, why not take the fun outside? For those kids
who need a little extra prodding beyond following a parents
good example, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), a
leading national non-profit dedicated to preserving and
appreciating wildlife, offers lots of suggestions and other
resources through its Be Out There campaign.
One tip is to
pack an explorers kitcomplete with
a magnifying glass, binoculars, containers for collecting,
field guides, a notebook, bug repellent and band-aidsinto
a backpack and leave it by the door to facilitate spontaneous
outdoor adventures. Another idea is to set aside one hour
each day as green hour, during which kids go
outside exploring, discovering and learning about the natural
Activity Finder helps parents discover fun outdoor activities
segmented by age. Examples include going on a Conifer Quest
and making a board displaying the different types of evergreen
trees in the neighborhood, turning an old soda bottle into
a terrarium and building a wildlife brush shelter.
source of inspiration is C&NN which, during the month
of April, is encouraging people of all ages to spend more
time outdoors at various family-friendly events as part
of its nationwide Lets Get Outside initiative. Visitors
to the C&NN website can scroll through dozens of events
within driving distance of most Americansand anyone
can register an appropriate event there as well.
found that children who play outside more are in better
shape, more creative, less aggressive and show better concentration
than their couch potato counterpartsand that the most
direct route to environmental awareness for adults is participating
in wild nature activities as kids. So do yourself and your
kid(s) a favor, and take a hike!
Be Out There; C&NN.
NEW SET OF ANSWERS IS FEATURED EACH WEEK!
How are populations of African elephants faring these
days? What conservation efforts are underway and are they
century ago some five millions wild elephants roamed
Africa. Today fewer than 500,000 remain, a result
of poaching for meat and ivory as well as habitat
loss due to expanding human development.
A century ago
some five millions wild elephants roamed Africa. Today fewer
than 500,000 remain, a result of poaching for meat and ivory
as well as habitat loss due to expanding human development.
A worldwide ban on ivory sales in 1990 under the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) allowed
some populations to recover briefly, but a recent resurgence
in illegal poaching means the iconic species is still in
The United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP) reported recently that African
elephants are under severe threat with double
the number killed and triple the amount of ivory seized
in recent years over previous decades. And the International
Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains
the international Red List of Threatened Species,
categorizes African elephants as vulnerable
and warns that conservation initiatives are not working
to stem declining population numbers.
the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), poachers kill tens of thousands
of African elephants each year to meet the growing demand
for ivory products across the Far East. Asia stands
behind a steadily increasing trend in illegal ivory and
there are still thriving domestic ivory markets in Africa,
In addition to
the demand for ivory, war and natural resource exploitation
across Africa contribute to poaching as increasingly larger
numbers of hungry people turn to wild elephant meat as a
source of food. WWF reports that limited resources, along
with the remoteness and inaccessibility of so much elephant
habitat, make it difficult for governments and agencies
to monitor and protect elephant herds.
habitat loss looms larger and larger over Africas
diverse fauna, especially elephants as they require large
ranges and dine on copious amounts of tree and plant life.
African elephants natural habitat is also shrinking
as human populations grow and forest and savannas are cleared
for infrastructure development and agriculture, says
WWF. Researchers estimate that elephants range across
Africa has been reduced from three million to just one million
square miles in the last three decades.
logging, plantations for biofuels and extractive industries
like logging and mining not only destroy habitat but also
open access to remote elephant forests for poachers,
adds WWF. In addition, extensive logging of forests
leaves elephants with a very limited food supply, which
results in high levels of human-elephant conflict when hungry
elephants enter villages and destroy local farmers
In 2011, U.S.
Congress reauthorized the long dormant African Elephant
Conservation Act, putting $1.7 million into rescue efforts.
Green groups raised another $3.6 million and now 29 on-the-ground
projects are working to help restore elephant herds across
Africa. Efforts include promoting partnerships between African
and Far East wildlife and law enforcement agencies to detect
and intercept illegally trafficked wildlife and improve
prosecution rates, installing radio networks to improve
communication between wildlife protection personnel, and
aerial surveillance to rapidly detect and respond to poaching.
Lets just hope efforts like these will bear fruit
in the face of rapidly continuing habitat loss.