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UW News takes an inside look into Peter Kahn’s research into “environmental generational amnesia.”

What counts as nature? It all depends

, UW News

Think, for a moment, about the last time you were out in nature. Were you in a city park? At a campground? On the beach? In the mountains?

Now consider: What was this place like in your parents’ time? Your grandparents’? In many cases, the parks, beaches and campgrounds of today are surrounded by more development, or are themselves more developed, than they were decades ago.

But to you, they still feel like nature.

That’s what University of Washington psychology professor Peter Kahn calls “environmental generational amnesia” — the idea that each generation perceives the environment into which it’s born, no matter how developed, urbanized or polluted, as the norm. And so what each generation comes to think of as “nature” is relative, based on what they’re exposed to. In a new paper, which Kahn co-authored with doctoral student Thea Weiss, in the latest issue of Children, Youth and Environments, they argue that more frequent and meaningful interactions with nature can enhance our connection to — and definition of — the natural world.

“There’s a shifting baseline of what we consider the environment, and as that baseline becomes impoverished, we don’t even see it,” Kahn said. “If we just try to teach people the importance of nature, that’s not going to work. They have to interact with it.”

Read the entire article here.