What does the public think about nature? This report found out

The general public doesn't fully understand the benefits of being in nature, according to “Nature Doesn’t Pay My Bills: Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Urban Nature and Health” report. The report compared the views of nature held by experts with those of the public. Researchers say there are four key areas where both groups agree: Humans evolved from nature; humans are sustained by nature; cities are stressful; and nature promotes feelings of well-being. One area of divergence was on the importance of nature to public health.

While landscape architects, arborists, and park advocates, and an increasing number of mayors, planners, and public health officials understand the presence of nearby nature in cities to be central to human health and well-being, the public seems to think of tree-lined streets, trails, and parks as “nice, but not necessary, add-ons,” according to the report commissioned by the TKF Foundation and conducted by the FrameWorks Institute, a non-partisan research organization. The report shows wide gaps in understanding between members of the public and experts on the health benefits of nature, the value of daily exposure to nature, how landscape design can enhance nature’s health and social benefits, and how the presence of green space and trees can boost neighborhood and, by extension, community connections. The members of the public surveyed also don’t perceive the typical differences in the amount of trees and parks available to wealthy and poorer urban neighborhoods and so don’t see it as a major equity issue. Urban nature is simply not a top priority. As one survey respondent said, “nature doesn’t pay the bills.” FrameWorks argues the best way to the public to demand more parks, trails, and green streets is to undertake a broad communications campaign to educate the public about the health benefits of nature.

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