Petition to the Surgeon General to Promote Outdoor Time

Photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Wow, you know there’s a movement afoot when the National Wildlife Federation starts circulating a petition urging the Surgeon General to “promote the health benefits of daily, unstructured outdoor play for children and families.” I got the news about this petition from the Green Hour, a website and blog from the NWF encouraging families to get their kids outside in “unstructured play and interaction with the natural world,” even if just for an hour a day. I signed up a few months ago, and every week they email me news and great ideas about getting kids (and even grown-ups) outside. 

Must be part of Richard Louv’s “No Child Left Inside” campaign, which I wrote about back in February and March (see archives on the right). Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, really touched a nerve in this country, and has since ignited a powerful movement. If you haven’t seen his organization’s website yet, go there now: the Children and Nature Network. But come back here after to sign the petition!

This is an exciting time for people in landscape architecture, city planning, public health, and education (to mention just a few professions) – it seems that the public is finally catching on to the idea that maybe closing our doors and hearts to the outside natural world isn’t such a good thing (as comfortable as that AC is…), and maybe our kids are missing out on something that many of us took for granted but benefited from in ways that we are only beginning to understand. 

I spent most of my childhood playing in the Nipmuck woods and Fenton River, both walking distance from my house, in rural Connecticut; these experiences instilled in me a deep love of and respect for nature, and I’m sure had a lot to do with my choice of landscape architecture as a profession. 

If you want to sign the petition, click HERE, and if this is a cause you believe in, then spread the word!

Here are a couple of excerpts:

We the undersigned urge you to issue a Surgeon General “Call to Action” to promote the health benefits of daily, unstructured outdoor play for children and families. 

Regardless of age, being in nature helps us lower our stress levels, get exercise and relax our minds. For children, contact with green space and natural settings improves their ability to learn, hones their agility and balance and can significantly calm those with anxiety and mood disorders. And, a childhood connection with the outdoors can lead to a lifelong ethic of respect for a clean and healthy environment.

Today’s kids and families are missing out on nature. Recent research shows that the amount of time U.S. children spend outside has declined by 50 percent in the last two decades alone! Meanwhile, the rate of childhood obesity has skyrocketed, and children now spend 44.5 hours a week in front of some type of electronic screen. We find this trend, which goes by the name, “nature-deficit” alarming. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware of nature-deficit and the implications for their own health.