The Missing Link for a Good Life - Extinction Rebellion UK

The Missing Link for a Good Life

The 2019 report by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on the critical decline in wildlife states that to save nature we need to re-evaluate what we mean by a ‘good life’.

In Western culture, a good life tends to focus on having more money and more things. However, a recent research study has shown that nature connectedness, i.e. having a close relationship with nature, is nearly four times more important for a good life than buying things.

The benefits of spending time in nature are increasingly accepted, but many of these studies haven’t considered a person’s relationship with nature. This recent work aimed, for the first time, to establish the contribution of both getting out into nature and nature connectedness to wellbeing and doing good for nature.

The work surveyed a representative sample of 4,960 adults across England.
To ensure meaningful results, the survey took care to account for various types of nature contact and many other factors such as socio-economic status, neighbourhood deprivation, urbanicity, gender, ethnicity, employment and marital status.

Nature connectedness needs to be significantly higher for the majority of the population to bring about the behaviours required for a sustainable future

The results showed that those with higher nature connectedness felt that their lives were more worthwhile, to a level 4 times larger than the increase associated with higher socio-economic status. The results also showed that a closer relationship with nature was linked to greater pro- environmental behaviours – behaviours like walking or cycling, recycling, buying locally-sourced food and eco-friendly products. Finally, those with a close connection to nature reported more pro-nature conservation, such as supporting nature conservation groups and volunteering for them.

So, a close relationship with nature is linked to both a worthwhile life and a pro-nature life – a good life. Notably, this close relationship with the rest of nature was found to be important over and above getting out into nature.

Interestingly, living in a greener neighbourhood was unrelated to general health, wellbeing or sustainability outcomes in this research. This may seem a little odd, but it shows that being in and developing a meaningful relationship with nature is more important than the simple presence of green space. Creating a good and sustainable life means creating places where people can engage every day with nature on their doorstep. This means moving beyond encouraging visits to green spaces, to fostering engagement with nature in green places.

Encouragingly, we know that nature connectedness can be increased through simply noticing the good things – looking, listening, finding joy, beauty and meaning in everyday nature. However, the warming climate and loss of wildlife show that the human relationship with the rest of nature is broken. Nature connectedness needs to be significantly higher for the majority of the population to bring about the behaviours required for a sustainable future. A new, closer and sustainable relationship with nature will require meaningful changes across society, including bringing nature into every aspect of our lives, from education to the workplace.


Miles Richardson is Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness @findingnature

Related topics


Sign up for news