As Americans, it’s easy for us to recognize the issues surrounding children and their lack of connection to and interaction with nature here in the United States; but the problem of children disconnecting from nature is truly a global challenge.
In March, Kids in Parks Director Jason Urroz attended the Salzburg Global Seminar’s session titled, “The Child in the City: Health, Parks, and Play,” to work with 50 leaders representing 23 countries to address the multiple facets of this important issue.
For 70 years, the Salzburg Global Seminar, held at the Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria, has convened current and future leaders from around the world to tackle issues of global concern by challenging established mindsets, inspiring collaborative solutions, and building lasting networks. The issues tackled by the Salzburg Global Seminar and the fellows that attend the sessions cover topics such as clean water, global healthcare, aging societies, climate change, violence, war, and more.
The topic of this Seminar was especially challenging given the geographic spread of the attendees, the sizes of the cities represented, the various challenges they face, and the numerous issues regarding children and their ability to access nature. Whether the group was talking about overcrowded cities where access to nature is limited, war-torn regions where access to nature may not be considered safe, impoverished areas where nature spaces have been degraded, or even highly affluent societies that place more attention on electronic media consumption than outdoor activity, the common thread between cities worldwide is the growing disconnection between children—and in reality, all people—and nature.
During the Seminar, Jason discussed the Kids in Parks program and the accomplishments we have made with our partners to get kids and families living in cities (and in rural regions) reconnected with nature for both their health and the health of our parks and public lands. Working with the other fellows, he used his experience to help brainstorm ways in which societies around the world can re-engage children (and in reality, all people) with the natural world through the built environment.
When the four and a half day Seminar concluded, there was an excitement among the fellows surrounding policy changes and design solutions to the global crisis. Participants left re-energized, and vowed to continue to work together, form partnerships, and enhance each other’s work.
In the coming months, several fellows from the Seminar will be working together to consolidate ideas brought forward during the sessions and work together to develop a paper about the topic, potentially highlighting “10 Salzburg Principles” that can be used to improve the health of children through the use of parks.
One thing is for sure, Kids in Parks will be part of the solution!
Photo: Ela Grieshaber