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Why mindsets matter: connection to nature

In this video, Professor Tom Oliver and Dr Joelene Hughes, Principal Conservation Scientist at RSPB, talk about humans' connection to nature.

The population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 19701. Scientists agree that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction age and more than 500 species of land animals are likely to be lost within 20 years. This is comparable to the number of species that were lost over the whole of the last century. There’s also irrefutable evidence that this biodiversity loss is caused by human activities, including anthropogenic climate change.

In this video, I interview Dr Joelene Hughes, Principal Conservation Scientist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Joelene explains the work being carried out to understand the factors that promote a sense of connection to nature and how that affects our behaviours towards the environment. We talk about nature connectedness, how to measure it and how to balance the requirements of humans and the natural world.

Joelene tells us her particular connection to nature is learning about how species, landscapes and habitats interact (her PhD thesis studied the interactions between caribou, musk ox, parasites and migration patterns in arctic Canada). What kinds of activities do you think might help you develop a more ‘connected’ mindset? Share them in the Comments area below. You might find other learners have some great suggestions.

We can measure how connected people feel using surveys like the one you did in Step 2.9 which allow researchers to take an evidence-based approach to studying nature connectedness, and help to challenge mindsets in order to tackle the environmental crisis. Activities being studied include:

  • bird watching, painting, and photography2
  • meditation3
  • outdoor community activities
  • computer training for social and nature connectedness4


  1. Living Planet Report: Bending the curve of biodiversity loss. WWF 2020
  2. Do people who feel connected to nature do more to protect it? A meta-analysis. Mackay, C.M.L. & Schmitt, M.T. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 65, 101323. 2019
  3. The Science of Meditation, Goleman & Davidson. Penguin Books, 2017
  4. Neural correlates of video game empathy training in adolescents: a randomized trial. Kral, T.R.A., et al. npj Science of Learning, 3, 13. 2018
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Using Systems Thinking to Tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis

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