How Getting Outdoors Benefits the Environment

published Aug 20, 2018
2 min read


Have you ever tried describing the Grand Canyon to a friend? A sunset? A field at daybreak, the mist curling from a nearby pond and hovering over the ghostly brush?

Some things can’t be recited or memorised, are too beautiful or stunning in the moment you experience them to convey with words — written or spoken. Anybody who’s ever lived or spent time in the country will understand the frustration of trying to describe an extraordinary experience in nature.

The fact is, those of us that love nature and spend as many waking hours in it as is humanly possible will know the irritation of explaining its importance to those who don’t. Trying to break through a friend’s protests that there are bugs outside and humans invented air conditioning for a reason can be a tough sell.

However, moments like the ones listed above, no matter how hard they are to describe accurately, can convince anyone of the beauty and importance of nature and encourage someone to

Separation from the Land

For many of us, technology and modern convenience have similarly stripped us of our natural connection to the land. Our present environmental crises are widely products of this same thinking — valuation of land as a product and a source of money rather than something of intrinsic worth.

Many of those directly profiting from oil drilling, hydrofracking and industrial production have never visited or spent time in the land directly impacted by their actions.

It’s difficult to say that the remedy to all the world’s environmental issues lies in spending more time in nature, but it’s not a bad place to start. Humans have intimately connected to the land — theirs or others’ — for thousands of years.

The first permanent human civilisations rose on foundations of agriculture, and before these, humans lived off the land in nomadic tribes, hunting and gathering in the depths of nature.

It’s difficult to visualise how far removed from these earliest days we have become. It is now possible — and easier than not for most people — to go an entire day without experiencing actual nature. This is mainly in cities, with most people only seeing nature on the weekends, and generally only when they walk through a city park.

How to Spend More Time Outside

It’s not fair to expect urbanites to go on trips into the countryside every chance they get: There’s plenty to do in the city, and it’s not always worth the long drive to escape the urban sprawl. However, there are also natural pursuits available in and around most urban settings. Urban farming, for instance, has taken off in recent years.

Community farms are set up in vacant lots throughout cities and can be found using an internet search. Many of the farms allow walk-ins and encourage new people to get involved in the farming process.

If you are feeling disconnected from the land in your concrete jungle, take a walk down to your nearest urban farm and spend a few hours weeding or planting seeds. It may seem tedious at first, but once you’ve spent enough time on your knees in the dirt, you’ll feel invested in the crops your farm produces.

However, there is no replacement for truly getting out in nature, and nothing can beat a good camping trip. Round up a few friends, find a beautiful piece of national forest or campground land, and unplug for a few days. Life will continue without your social media feed or emails, and within hours of setting up your tent and kicking back around a fire, you’ll begin to understand the importance of nature.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, go out on a backwoods hike. Bring some dehydrated or freeze-dried food, plenty of water and a good pair of boots. These sorts of expeditions have been going on for thousands of years, and are an important tradition to continue.

You might get sick of the woods after a couple of hours, but by the time you head back to the comforts of the city, you’ll remember the whole trip fondly, and you’ll jump at the next chance to get out there.

There’s nothing quite like coming around a bend in the trail to be greeted by an amazing sunset or a sweeping view of a valley. You’ll experience many of these moments while hiking, and it’s these memories that will keep you coming out to nature. In turn, you’ll try to explain the experience to others, and when your words fail, you’ll encourage them to go with you to experience it for themselves.


Environmental Goodness

Re-establishing your connection with nature is great for the environment. After all, the more people talk about the excellent experiences they’ve had with the environment, the more nature — and the conservation therein — enter the national conversation. Taking trips to experience the best natural offerings of a different state or region will help convince politicians that the nature of their state does have value — intrinsic or otherwise.

Your next experience awaits. Get out there.


Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability freelance writer and blogger from Lancaster, PA. Check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for the latest updates!