Why People Need Nature

Group watching roosting butterflies in the french Pyrenees.

watching butterflies in the french Pyrenees.

Why People Need Nature?

Nature provides vital basic services to support human survival, such as food and clean drinking water and the absorption of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But evidence is also accumulating about the benefits of a nature-rich environment to people’s health and mental wellbeing.


The idea of nature is always with us. Nature is used to sell us products, from cars to shampoo. Never has there been more support amongst the public for nature than now. The National Trust has over 4 million members and the RSPB has over a million. Millions more enjoy watching nature documentaries such as Springwatch or David Attenborough’s TV series. A MENE survey shows that 58% of adults in England visit “the natural environment” at least once a week[1].


But nature is in crisis. As the State of Nature report showed in 2014, 60% of England's wild species are in decline, despite great efforts to prevent it. Scientists believe that humanity has initiated the sixth great extinction.


So, as support for nature continues to increase, nature itself continues to disappear. The idea of nature has come to replace nature itself in our lives. Although people are enthralled by the latest nature TV series they are becoming ever more disconnected from the actuality of nature in their everyday experiences.


Children spend less time outdoors than ever before, and, as Prince Charles has said, many people in Britain are now four or more generations from a life thoroughly immersed in nature, through working on the land.


Efforts to persuade policy makers to take nature into account when considering the economy or society have met with very limited success. The latest approach to valuing ecosystem services is the concept of ‘natural capital’ which has been taken up by conservation charities in their efforts to gain traction with politicians and economists. However, this way of viewing and valuing nature means very little to most people.


We believe it is important to recognise and highlight other reasons why people care about nature, not just for its economic value, but for fundamental, personal reasons. Nature feeds our souls, provides inspiration, joy, peace, contemplation and solace. People have an instinctual, visceral and spiritual need for nature.