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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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1 Unsustainability: first the bad news …

Humans are living in unprecedented times; human activity is now recognised as the key driver of a global environmental crisis. There are multiple problems ranging from soil degradation, forest fires, pandemics, plastic pollution, sea level rise and extreme weather events, and they are all connected in different ways.

The latest reports from the IPCC (2021) and IPBES (2019) detail the science behind the events which are causing the natural world to lose its richness, diversity and stability. This situation is sometimes referred to as the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, as it is recognised that global wildlife populations have dropped by around two thirds in the last 50 years (WWF Living Planet Report, 2020).

It is not just the climate and environment that are on the brink of disaster. The list of crises can easily be lengthened to include issues such as social injustice, gender inequality, health and social care, and poverty. A concern is, that as nature declines and children are born into a less ecologically diverse world, there is a vicious cycle that is fuelled by an ‘extinction of experience’ (Pyle, 1993, p. 130) and a lack of concern and care for what remains:

Those who know and recognize less, care less, and therefore act less, leading to still more losses.

(Pyle, 2003, p. 9)

The ‘cost’ of this cycle is seen in the poor health and wellbeing of humanity and the global environment – or, in other words, ‘unsustainability’.