Access to the outdoors can provide kids with something called 'social advantage', and help overcome some of the difficulties associated with low incomes, the chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said today.
Andrew Thin was speaking at the Youth Spaces conference in Edinburgh, organised by The Conservation Volunteers, Scotland, which works to connect young people to the outdoors through hands-on practical activities.
'Social advantage is a function of far more than income or wealth. It is a function of self-esteem, self-confidence, interpersonal competence, open mindedness, health and much more. And in all of these determining factors income can help, but it is certainly not a prerequisite. So while I regret income disparity in our society, I see it as a challenge that effective public policy can address and overcome.'
'One of the things we know is that access to the outdoors can contribute to social advantage. Self-esteem and self-confidence are key determinants of employability, and they can be gained by climbing a hill, or even a tree; canoeing across a loch or biking through a glen. Interpersonal skills too are naturally enhanced when doing things with other people in the outdoors.'
Mr Thin, who is also on the Board of Children’s Hearings Scotland, highlighted the sense of stability that the outdoors can provide through relationships people have with places such as a favourite campsite or fishing spot by the canal. These lifelong relationships, he said, are formed from a very young age.
Jenny Adams of The Conservation Volunteers Scotland added:
'It is increasingly common these days to hear about young people who are disconnected from nature. Many of us will have heard the phrase “nature deficiency disorder” where children and young people are more likely to be plugged in to the electronic world and become prone to inactivity - “sitting apparently is the new smoking”. Access to nature can have a significant impact on the lives of marginalised young people, offering them the freedom, equilibrium and expertise that they have been denied in formal education.'