This article is from the UK Independent today. It's no surprise to me, even though I still have this utterly cliched image of vaguely 19th century, rosy-cheeked, blue-kneed English kids having a nice, well-mannered romp with their thoughtful, well-informed nannies in ancient woods and along hedgerows. And they're all wearing darling homespun woolen knickers and little caps, natch. But no, it seems the British kids are every bit as clueless as the American kids are about nature.
This disconnect from nature matters. It matters a lot. If kids are disconnected from nature, they stop caring about nature. If they don't care about nature as kids, they will certainly not care about nature as grown-ups. And nature needs, and will need, all the champions it can get. Think thirty years into the future, when our future 40-something-year-olds are writing legislation about, and voting on, say, environmental protection. And mining. And forestry. And wetlands. And offshore drilling. And clean water. And farm bills. They will have only a very narrow human perspective. This loss of basic biological knowledge is a great tragedy for the immediate future of other species on earth.
How many other species are there? I was curious, so I looked it up. Today, there are about 5,000 species of mammals, 10,000 to 16,000 species of birds, 800,000 to 1,000,000 species of insects, and no-one-knows how many species of fish, because our oceans are sadly given so little attention (but about 27,000 are known). By most estimates right now, that count will be halved in thirty years. Scientists are calling this current, and coming, massive redcution of species the sixth mass extinction; the fifth mass extinction was the fall of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In 100 years, just three generations away, the world will be a very different place.
There are some good folks working on this mountain of a problem. Changing the Cartesian and biblical world views that, for centuries, set man above and apart from nature are two of our biggest hurdles. The new land-use ecological studies, such as sustainable agriculture and reconciliation ecology, focus on maintaining biodiversity and the assemblage of species within habitats while seeking the balance of how humans can work within nature while doing less, or no, harm. But will the coming generations carry it forward? Will they care? Or will procuring basic human needs be at such a fever pitch there will be no time to care?