People Exposed to Nature are More Likely to Protect It

We care about the environment at Allard PPC and our sister company VRA Associates. Our founder is intensely interested in environmentalism, and we try to lead by example. In fact, at this writing, Ross is headed to Britain’s South West Coast to hike its historic path and enjoy firsthand this environmentally sensitive area.

And that brings us to a very interesting point. Ross has spent a lifetime enjoying the outdoors, particularly the water, and he’s also worked to protect and preserve the natural world for future generations. In more recent times, the epic destruction of Hurricane’s Harvey and Irma, likely made much stronger by climate change, has lent urgency to Ross’ efforts and the sustainability efforts of Allard and VRA.

With that backdrop, we’ve often wondered which came first, Ross’ love of the natural world and then environmentalism or an innate environmentalism that led to a love of the natural world.

Well, oddly enough, a recent, local environmental battle leads us to believe it is the former, that exposure to and enjoyment of the natural world makes people care more about it.

Academic research backs this up as well.

According to “The Oxford Handbook of Environmental and Conservation Psychology,” exposure to the outdoors, to “green exercise,” or even the presence of more trees in urban areas leads to a greater interest in environmentalism along with feeling empowered in government, a greater feeling of safety and lower rates of crime.

And that’s exactly what local residents saw happen with Sarasota’s Celery Fields, a wetland that is home to large numbers of birds and other wildlife. Early in the battle to save it from nearby industrial development, opponents of the development weren’t sure they’d have the public’s support.

What they weren’t counting on were the many people who’d come to love the area and used it for hiking, birdwatching or simply being in nature.

They showed up — by the hundreds, so much so that the county had to use overflow rooms to hold the people who came to support the Celery Fields.

Rob Wright, a consultant for Audubon that opposed the development and who once worked for Sarasota County as a coordinator for its Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team, said he’s never seen anything like it.

“I truly thought Audubon was going to be standing alone on this one,” he said. “As soon as we started putting the word out, people started showing up to meetings. I was amazed.”

Rob and Ross met while Ross was working with Sarasota County’s NEST program and Rob offered guidance on the Waterford Project that introduced more sustainable wetlands practices to the development where Ross lives. The two were also part of a team of passionate speakers who advocated on behalf of Sarasota County and wound up bringing home the All American Cities Award in 2006.

So this much we’ve learned: People who experience the outdoors are much more prone to stand up for the natural world.

A half a world away, Ross Allard is about to embark on an adventure that will bring him up close and personal with Britain’s South West Coast, a place that he already loves and that faces its own set of environmental challenges brought on by climate change.

We’ll be bringing you details of that adventure in the hopes you’ll embark on one of your own.

The more we all immerse ourselves in the natural world that is our true home, the more we’ll all want to protect it for generations to come.