Addressing Children’s Nature-Deficit Disorder: Bold Actions by Conservation Leaders Worldwide

Actions taken at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress provide dramatic support for the worldwide movement to re-connect children and nature—for their health and well-being and that of the Earth itself.

Cheryl Charles, CEC Member

By CEC member Cheryl Charles, Ph.D., President and CEO, Children & Nature Network

More than 10,000 people representing 150 nations and more than 1000 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) participated in the Congress which convenes every four years. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is one of the participating NGOs.

Of the many declarations approved and actions taken, there are three of particular relevance to
the children and nature movement:

  • IUCN adopted the resolution, “Child’s Right to Connect with Nature and to a Healthy Environment.” The resolution calls on IUCN’s government members and NGOs to promote and actively contribute to the international acknowledgement and codification of this right within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Leaders of national parks and protected areas throughout the world resolved to work collectively to strengthen people’s engagement with nature by approving the “Jeju Declaration on National Parks and Protected Areas: Connecting People to Nature.” This declaration commits to creating a global campaign that recognizes the great contribution of these natural treasures to the health and resilience of people, communities and economies.
  • The Children & Nature Network, one of the signatories to the Jeju Declaration, along with the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC), jointly released the landmark “Children and Nature Worldwide Summary of Research.” This annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed research and studies fromscholars throughout the world provides an evidence-based resource to dramatize the critical reasons for connecting children and youth with nature.

“All of these actions are significant. I particularly commend Dr. Annelies Henstra, IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, for her leadership and effectiveness in crafting the motion on the child’s right to nature, which received such strong support. We welcome the next steps to take this forward to the United Nations,” said Richard Louv, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Children & Nature Network. Richard Louv is author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” and “The Nature Principle,” in which he argued that that our connection to the health, cognitive and spiritual benefits of the natural world should be considered a human right. Louv also praised the leadership of Dr. Cheryl Charles, CEO of the Children & Nature Network, and Robin Moore who called in 1997 for such a right to be established. Moore is professor of landscape architecture at North Carolina State University and Director, The Natural Learning Initiative.

“I am heartened and inspired by the actions taken at this World Congress that directly affirm the need for children to have direct experiences with nature in their everyday lives. The shared commitment demonstrated by CEOs of national parks, business leaders, non-profit executives, scientists and politicians is visionary and necessary,” stated Dr. Cheryl Charles, IUCN Commission on Education and Communication Assistant Deputy Chair, and CEO of C&NN.

“We are pleased to see these important actions taken by the IUCN World Congress. Instead of lamenting the losses we face, these world leaders are committed to engendering children’s love of nature—the key to their caring for the world’s natural environments for generations to come,” stated Keith Wheeler, Chair of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication, 2004 - 2012.

The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) advocates for children, their families and communities to enhance their health and well-being and that of the Earth itself through direct experiences in nature. C&NN is leading a worldwide movement to re-connect people with nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. For more information see

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN CEC, the Commission on Education and Communication, is a network driving change for sustainability. More than 1000 members volunteer their professional expertise in learning, knowledge management and strategic communication to achieve IUCN goals. See

To obtain the full Children and Nature Worldwide Summary of Research DOWNLOAD a copy of the Report at

Cheryl Charles, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Children & Nature Network
(505) 466-2145

Work area: 
Protected Areas
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