The Nature Conservancy has released a new nationwide poll that reveals America’s youth are unhappy with the condition of the environment, and lack faith in adults to address it. The findings also show strong evidence that more time spent in nature directly correlates with a commitment to protect it, and that youth in the West are spending more time in nature than youth anywhere else in the country.
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of youth surveyed agree that “previous generations have damaged our environment and left it to our generation to fix it.” Only one-third of youth believe that government leaders are doing a “good job addressing major problems facing our country.”
The research confirmed that youth are not spending a great deal of time outdoors.
“This research is a wake-up call for parents, leaders and the conservation community,” said Mark Tercek, Nature Conservancy president and CEO. “Today’s youth do not believe we are doing enough to address the mounting challenges facing the environment. It is critical that we take more proactive steps to protect our lands and waters for younger generations and connect them with these places.”
When it comes to getting outside, youth in the West are most likely to regularly spend time in nature, and far less likely to see discomfort as an obstacle to being outside (with just 25% rating it a “major obstacle” compared to 36% of the full sample). In fact, 39% of Western youth prefer spending time outdoors, while 35% of youth in the Northeast prefer spending time indoors.
“We know families in Utah and throughout the West truly value time spent together in nature,” said Dave Livermore, State Director for the Conservancy’s Utah Chapter. “What we’re finding is a growing interest in programs we offer to help parents and teachers get children outside more, learn about nature and understand the value of conserving our natural places and resources.”
This year, The Nature Conservancy’s Utah Chapter is increasing its youth outreach efforts, which include kid-friendly field trips to preserves, a new Great Salt Lake “patch program” for Boy and Girl Scouts, education partnerships with the University of Utah, Utah State University and Brigham Young University, and a new emphasis on the award-winning Wings & Water Wetlands Education Program.
Underway since 2005, the Conservancy’s Wings & Water program takes 1,500 4th graders out on guided field trips to the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve every year. As the recent poll shows, programs like Wings & Water are increasingly important. Teens surveyed across the country indicated they value field trip experiences that get them outside, yet fewer than one-quarter of youth say they go on outdoor field trips on even a monthly basis.
“That’s why we’re eager to continue getting kids out to our preserves and other amazing Utah landscapes,” says Livermore “These children are the future leaders of our state, and it’s so important that they understand and value the unique lands and waters that sustain our communities and our quality of life.”
The need to reconnect youth with the natural world is an issue gaining momentum in many circles statewide. Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature passed H.C.R. 7, a concurrent resolution that “expressed support for increased participation by children in outdoor activities.” Coined the “No Child Left Inside” bill, this acknowledgement of nature’s influence in the healthy development of children is one local example of a nationwide effort to get young people outside.
For ideas to help you connect your kids with nature or for more information on getting outside through one of the Conservancy’s programs, visit nature.org/Utah.
Key Findings from National Poll
The research was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) and funding was provided by The Toyota USA Foundation and The Foundation for Youth Investment.
"Today's youth are going to be the innovators of new solutions to ensure a sustainable future, and we are proud to support this critical research to illuminate how youth across the nation value nature in a rapidly changing world, "said Pat Pineda, group vice president of philanthropy at Toyota Motor North America.
"The Foundation for Youth Investment (FYI) was proud to sponsor this research that sheds light on why our youth are spending less time outdoors,” said Steve Hagler, executive director of the FYI. “Unlike previous generations where parents simply said, ‘Go outside and play!’ kids today need more encouragement, and we must give them the opportunity by providing outdoor programs and safe open spaces and parks.”
To learn more about the poll and The Nature Conservancy’s work to engage youth with nature, visit nature.org/youthpoll.
Methodology: From July 28 to August 4, 2011, FM3 and POS completed 602 on-line interviews with American youth between the ages of 13 and 18. Quotas were established to ensure representativeness of the sample by age, gender, geography, and race.
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) has specialized in public policy-oriented opinion research since the company was first organized in 1981. With permanent offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Madison, Wisconsin, the firm conducts research for political candidates, for ballot measure campaigns, and for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies across all fifty states and also in other countries.
Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a survey research company specializing in political and public policy research, with offices in Washington, Denver and Los Angeles. Founded in 1991, the firm has conducted more than three million interviews with voters and consumers in all fifty states and over a dozen foreign countries, including more than 1,600 focus groups.
In partnership, FM3 and POS collaborate on over a dozen bipartisan research projects each year. The team has worked together in 38 states, from Alaska to Florida, as well as on numerous national research projects. The team conducts research on land conservation, political reform, immigration, health care, education, and other critical issues.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy