Valuing nature

Americans value nature in remarkably broad, diverse ways

Senior couple walking with their dog in the countryside

Americans today value nature in broad, diverse ways — a pattern that holds across demographic differences of age, race and ethnicity, residential location, educational attainment, income level, and gender. The great majority value contact with the natural world through multiple dimensions, including affection and attraction, intellectual development, spirituality, and symbolism.

Promote experiences in nature that match the diverse ways Americans value nature

Adults appreciate and value multiple aspects of nature, each of which can be intrinsically satisfying and beneficial. Children ages 8–12 particularly told us of their interest in learning about nature and how the natural world works. Still, experiences and programs that only teach formal knowledge about the natural world speak to only one way Americans interact with and enjoy nature. Our research suggests that attracting a broader, more diverse, and larger number of participants to programs depends on promoting and speaking to a range of values, including:

  • Affection and even love for nature, the outdoors, and wildlife
  • Appreciation of nature’s aesthetic appeal and beauty
  • Enhancement and enrichment of intellectual development and knowledge
  • Appreciation of the many practical ways people benefit from the natural world if utilized in a sustainable fashion
  • Feelings of peacefulness and, for many, spiritual connection to the natural world of which humans remain an integral and essential part.

Broaden programming to include a range of outcomes

The American public overwhelmingly thinks that learning formally about nature and outdoor skills is good: the great majority of adults thought knowing how nature works is highly important,  children expressed interest in learning about things like snakes and insects, and places like nature-education centers attracted interest from all demographic groups. Yet adults and children alike also revealed that they desire a range of outcomes from their engagement with nature, including discovery, peace, challenge, curiosity, beauty, love, and more. Programs ought to offer participants more ways to engage with nature than only acquiring formal knowledge.