Thursday, February 14, 2008

Less Nature

Oliver Pergams and Patrica Zaradic have a new, wide-ranging study out, their third on this topic since 2004. Published online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Website, it provides continued data that Americans are losing touch with the outdoors.

From the Abstract:
The four variables with the greatest per capita participation were visits to Japanese National Parks, U.S. State Parks, U.S. National Parks, and U.S. National Forests, with an average individual participating 0.74–2.75 times per year. All four time series are in downtrends, with linear regressions showing ongoing losses of –1.0% to –3.1% per year. The longest and most complete time series tested suggest that typical declines in per capita nature recreation began between 1981 and 1991, are proceeding at rates of –1.0% to –1.3% per year, and total to date –18% to –25%.

To access the whole study, you need a subscription, so here's a story from the News Tribune in Tacoma.
Pergams went on to say, “The replacement of vigorous outdoor activities by sedentary, indoor videophilia has far-reaching consequences for physical and mental health, especially in children. Videophilia has been shown to be a cause of obesity, lack of socialization, attention disorders and poor academic performance.”
And another from the Chicago Tribune:

The study analyzed possible factors for the decline and found four primary ones: an increase in gas prices, along with an increase in the hours people were spending on the Internet, playing video games and watching movies.

After that study, Pergams said they got a lot of flak (my word, not theirs) from people who attributed the declining visits to such things as excessive park admissions fees and decaying infrastructure -- rather than people not wanting to get off their patooties.