Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn, is back with a new blog...

It’s not an Illusion

A wee girl clings on to the side of a house – HEEEEELLLLLLP!!!

I dangle from a window ledge.

But, don’t worry, it’s not as alarming as it looks – the whole thing is an illusion, part of an interactive piece of art in London that I went to when I was down south last week. The ‘house’ lies flat and an angled mirror tilted above makes horizontals appear vertical.

A lot of people insist that they don’t like art – it’s all fusty old galleries and long-dead painters. But that’s preconceptions for you - the day I was at the exhibit it was absolutely mobbed – all ages, all nationalities, all sorts of folk were there having a great time, enjoying art, having fun!!

And after they’d had a crawl over the ‘house’ many of the families went just round the corner to the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden where kids (and adults!) can run around and touch flowers and hear the buzz of bees – a space to breathe surrounded by nature. As with art, many people have preconceptions about nature – it’s boring, not for the likes of me, what’s the point of it. But those enjoying themselves in that little oasis in the middle of London gave the lie to that - this was nature as fun, nature as part of their lives, nature as a necessity, not something that just happens somewhere else or on the telly.

Participation has been a theme this week. One year on from the Olympics the talk at the Anniversary Games was about the legacy. Did people just enjoy watching the sport or did they feel sufficiently motivated to get up and take part themselves?

And participation is important - just as there are loads of reasons why being active in sport is good for you the same holds true for nature: physical and mental health, social skills, a sense of wellbeing, the satisfaction of achievement, to name just a few. But, unfortunately, just as these benefits become more apparent, as a nation we participate less. Children now spend a fraction of their time outside compared to when I was little and, consequently, are far more familiar with brand names and logos than common flowers and birds.

And, unfortunately, this disconnection from nature isn’t an illusion which can be put right simply by tilting a mirror, it’s real.

The cost to ourselves and to nature of allowing this disconnection to continue is too great so the RSPB and others are taking this fight on. When I was south I also saw some great presentations on work the RSPB is doing with the University of Essex and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to measure children’s connection with nature and how to increase it - really exciting work and I’ll come back to it once the report has been published in the autumn.

In the meantime, we can all do this wee survey and see how connected we are with nature in our gardens, our communities, the countryside. Maybe it’s lots or maybe it’s not as much as we thought or maybe you are still to discover what you can do for nature and nature can do for you.