Cultivating a Respect for Nature

By: Lisa Martens, IUOS Intern; Greening of the IU Health Center

As I move further into my education and professional life I am frequently asked why it is I want to work in the environmental realm. I never really thought about it and would simply respond ‘because I have a passion for it’. After giving this answer for several years I began to question myself and dig deeper into the ‘why’. I sought out friends who have similar interests and asked them about what their ‘why’ is. In this discussion I soon picked up on a common theme; we all grew up playing in the woods, spending endless summer days running around with friends outdoors, and in households that had an appreciation and respect for nature.


After I came to this realization and reminisced fondly of my childhood, I became concerned about the future generations and their respect for nature. As our population continues to grow we are living in ever more congested areas where our green space is being crowded out. Most young children don’t have the opportunity to play outside in nature. Children are now entertained by technology and gadgets, rather than using their imagination and spending endless summer days outside. The question now becomes how do we continue to provide these outdoor experiences for children growing up in urban areas where there may be little access to green space in order to cultivate that love and respect for nature?

In my discussions with friends about their ‘why’, I was very encouraged by the efforts of a friend to do just that here in Bloomington. He is working to create a student group here at Indiana University that will partner with the Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors program to have IU students get out there and take local children to enjoy the outdoors. Although, not officially a program yet here at IU it was a strong encouragement that we are moving in the right direction to cultivating a respect for nature in the younger generations.

In order to create a culture of sustainability and environmental awareness it is important to cultivate a respect and love of nature in the young generation. Programs like the Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors are a great place to start. They provide under-served populations of America with opportunities to get outdoors, work to train youth to become leaders in their communities, and strive to engage political officials in the conversation to provide more under-served communities with access to nature and green space.

So if you can, get out there and volunteer with similar programs or simply take the children in your life out for a day in nature. Its fun and you will be helping to create a culture of environmental awareness and sustainability in our future leaders.


4 thoughts on “Cultivating a Respect for Nature

  1. I think as human populations evolved, industrialized, and specialized – we as a society become more and more disconnected from the mode of production. It’s challenging to keep track of where products come from and how it’s all created, which further serves to disconnect us from the environment. Many educators are trying to do exactly what you suggest – to foster a relationship with the environment through outdoor activities and natural playscapes. I say let’s starting with our young too so that we can make sure our future generation is taken care of.

  2. What an interesting hypothesis about the “common themes” in our lives which push us into this field. It certainly holds true for me and the childhood I experienced. But is this the only way to to gain an appreciation for nature? I fear if our childhood is the only part of life that allows us to adopt this appreciation for nature, many people will slip through the cracks who don’t have the same family norms that you and I do.

    I think a big question is how can we target those who don’t have a respect for nature?

  3. I have to agree with the comment above. The idea of a common thread is very interesting. I have a similar experience to you, Lisa- remembering playing outside is a vehicle for my passion for the environment. I’m glad to see that a program that will get children outdoors is in the works at IU.

    However, once again in line with the comment above, what do we do for generations or otherwise that we aren’t able to reach. How do you instill an appreciation of the environment in someone that isn’t able or willing to spend time outside?

  4. I completely agree and appreciate all the comments. I didn’t mean to say that this is the only problem that keeps us disconnected from nature, nor is it the only solution to getting our youth and society invested in our environment. It is simply on step and strategy that can help address this much larger issue

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