"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Another national park season is here. Let's help the parks embrace our arrival.

In June 2020, three months after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, health officials Adjusted initial restrictions to permit External socialization. The proposal was well received by the general public, especially those battling the lockdown mandate.

While national and provincial parks remained closed. People gathered eagerly Local parks, mountain climbing trails and more Other external areas. It showed the importance of social communication, and gave birth to a recent one. Appreciation of natureEspecially amongst individuals who weren't spending much time outdoors before.

Although restrictions have been lifted, national parks Be more busy than everWith overcrowding and overuse comes the chance of habitat loss, erosion and pollution. This presents challenges for conservation, and could cause Unintended damage so many Land and water We are grown to like.

Benefits of nature

It's hardly surprising that spending time in nature is useful to our health, but what's surprising is the depth of research behind this concept. Several studies have explored this relationship, including one from Japan who found a major reduction in stress after just quarter-hour of sitting within the woods in comparison with a city street.

Another study Positive effects of out of doors time on brain volume were found when MRI scans were compared between participants who spent variable amounts of time outdoors. A recent comprehensive narrative review revealed this. Staying close to blue spaces Positively affects physical and mental health.

People walk along a road in Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Canada's busiest national park.
The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh

For those that live in urban environments, heading to national parks has turn out to be a well-liked method to immerse yourself in nature, with recent advances in healthcare systems making them more accessible.

The concept of “nature's prescription” has been adopted in most countries, including the UK. Japan and the United States, offering programs where health professionals recommend outdoor time to patients to enhance their health.

In Canada, PaRx broke ground. As the primary national prescription program on the earth Partner with the National Park OrganizationParks Canada, to supply free annual park passes to patients. In addition to a wide range of free and discounted outdoor offerings that cover the price of admission, PaRx — led by Dr. Melissa Lim, considered one of the authors of this story — can be within the works. Transportation organizations To Promote external access..

Effect of increased use

Green swamp and water scene with boardwalk.
The Greenwich Peninsula portion of Prince Edward Island National Park accommodates an intensive and fragile coastal dune system, wetlands, and diverse natural habitats that contain quite a few rare plant species.
The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

However, park officials and hosts of tourist destinations are expressing their concerns concerning the negative impact of increased national park traffic in Canada and elsewhere. The poor attitude and careless behavior of some park-goers spoils the park experience for others.

Vandalism has increased around Big Bend National Park in Texas, including Irreparable loss to ancient petroglyphs. Land in California Around HyperionThe largest living tree on the earth, it has turn out to be so degraded that those that stray from the marked paths at the moment are fined. On Banff National Parkone guide recounted how tourists “exemplified how they saw animals: as an attraction, a sight they deserved” each time they asked him: “Can you see us today?” Will you show the wildlife?”

Colonial attitudes toward land use have also harmed indigenous peoples, whose traditional practices could also be disrupted when outdoor experiences and Instagram-worthy photo-seekers take over. Crowd on your land.

Ethical use of spaces

Although some tourists may view the land, animals, trees, and plants as mere attractions, traditional indigenous knowledge systems see the health of humans and the nonhuman world as inseparable. Abusive behavior inside national parks Underline the disconnect. Between Indigenous and Western Worldviews.

It needs to be noted that many national parks were created when indigenous peoples were forcibly faraway from their traditional lands, while concurrently being marketed to them.Natural beauty“To Western Settlers. Today, Canada has a national park system. Actively working with local people Towards the correction of those errors.

Three people in a forest
Hikers walk through a patch of evergreen forest in Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto in June 2021.
The Canadian Press/Giordano Ciampini

Many policy options might be considered to encourage the moral and secure use of green and blue spaces as people fill their natural prescriptions. External organizations should develop strong links with programs Leave no trace. To increase the methods of education and respect.

Can expand their partnership with parks. Local transport companies and transit systems to scale back using private vehicles. Legislation will also be considered to extend penalties for vandalism, pollution and other harmful practices that disrupt the natural environment and our relationship with it.

Addressing these critical issues requires collaboration between the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and native, municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Continued investment in local leadership to administer and protect national parks and other green spaces can be critical.

Spending time in natural spaces shouldn’t be a recent method to improve our health. We are a part of the natural environment, and our actions have significant effects on the Earth and the nonhumans around us.

Prioritizing the health-promoting effects of green spaces means taking a reflexive approach to our relationship with the earth and one another, and learning the right way to work in ways in which ultimately help the mountains, plains, Improve the health of the lakes, oceans and forests we value.