How can we make more space for nature in our lives?

Working in partnership with the World’s Largest Lesson, the Global Commons Alliance recently brought a group of school children together for an art lesson on the subject of ‘Nature Positive’ – the idea that we can all contribute to a future with more nature than we have now.

Many of the school children from Pimlico Primary who joined us in Es Devlin’s Forest for Change, part of the London Design Biennale, had never been in a forest before.

Inside the forest the fresh scent of cedar wood-chips, and the sound of birdsong from speakers hidden in the willow, birch, maple and ash trees, made us feel a world away from the diesel fumed city streets.

Being in nature improves our cognitive function. It reduces blood pressure and stress, improves our mood and ability to concentrate. ‘Forest bathing’ – simply walking in a forest – has been prescribed by doctors in Japan for decades, and even just being able to see nature from a hospital window can improve healing time from surgery.

Watching the children play, observe and interact with the Forest for Change, and listening to their questions about the plants, animals and insects in the forest was life affirming, and a reminder of why it is so important we make more space for nature in our lives.

A Nature Positive future is more than a feel good idea – it’s essential for humanity to thrive. Yassin, one of the children from Pimlico Primary put it perfectly: “nature is so good, because it creates human life.” But as a species, despite clear warnings of the dangers, we’ve degraded and destroyed the global commons to such a degree that we risk passing catastrophic tipping points in the near future.

It can be easy to feel helpless in the face of the climate and ecological crises when we look at the damage that’s been done. But by connecting with nature wherever we can find it – whether it’s a rebellious dandelion growing out of a crack in the concrete, or an art installation masquerading as a forest – we can quickly tap into the benefits and feel inspired to take action to protect and restore our natural world.

The World’s Largest Art Lesson on Nature Positive is now being built for sharing with school children around the world. Through it we hope to inspire a generation to take the time to look at and connect with nature, and be moved to demand more space for nature in their lives.