File this under “More depressing confirmation of what we already suspected”:

O.R. W. Pergams and P. A. Zaradic. 2008. Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.0709893105.

In this paper they compare the US, Japan, and Spain across a wide variety of environmental recreation variables. This work stems from earlier research (see below) investing decreases of US National Park visits of up to 25% since 1990.

Their conclusion:

“all major lines of evidence point to an ongoing and fundamental shift away from nature-based recreation.”

Now, I know, correlation isn’t the strongest of analyses. But when you combine it with a multi-factorial linear regression, it is pretty compelling–especially when it confirms something I think a lot of us have long suspected.

This is actually just the latest work by these authors, on the same topic; I liked their earlier paper a lot better, simply because the scope was smaller. I’ll let this excerpt from the abstract explain what they found:

Is love of nature in the US becoming love of electronic media? 16-year downtrend in national park visits explained by watching movies, playing video games, internet use, and oil price. Journal of Environmental Management 2006. 80:387-393.

“Spearman correlation analyses found this decline in NPV [bg-national park visits] to be significantly negatively correlated with several electronic entertainment indicators: hours of television, (P<0.001), video games (P<0.001), home movies (P<0.001), theatre attendance (P<0.025) and internet use (P<0.001)….
Multiple linear regression of four of the entertainment media variables as well as oil prices explains 97.5% of this recent decline. We may be seeing evidence of a fundamental shift away from people’s appreciation of nature (biophilia, Wilson 1984) to ‘videophilia,’ which we here define as “the new human tendency to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media.” Such a shift would not bode well for the future of biodiversity conservation.”

They also have a review paper:

Videophilia: Implications for Childhood Development and Conservation. Journal of Developmental Processes 2007. 2(1): 130-144. (PDF version of paper)

So there you have it–the internet did kill nature. I guess it’s a bad sign that these papers made me depressed and that I wanted to stay in bed and eat chocolate.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. So true, although I’d blame the shift to cities and TV ahead of the internet — far too many people think of nature as something to be revered from a distance, which, in the end, leads to the same decline that happens to churches when folks don’t visit them… (which I’m sure you don’t mind, but you might still grant the analogy.)

    The days of Teddy Roosevelt, the naturalist and hunter as ideal man, were perhaps better than the alternative, which is all to often someone perched in front of the TV watching “the game.”

    Ah, but the internet can also connect up folks and encourage such tendencies…e.g….and not coincidentally, I’ve got a recent blog post with a creature that I hope to see some day in the wild — and a post about the bio of TR that I recently read and my own outdoor activities.

  2. I’m not anti-church. I’m just anti intrusive bible-thumping :)
    I have a much more “live and let live” attitude than, say, PZ.

    Eco-theology has actually been helpful in fighting some conservation battles (obviously, the stewardship people, not the dominion folks.)

  3. This reminds me of a previous post of yours where you were commenting on the state of Michigan closing or reducing services at a number of states parks due to budget problems.

    It has also been a common refrain at national parks that there are too many people trying to use the same facilities, resulting in not just over-crowding, but also over-usage of facilities, and wearing down of natural resources and nature itself.

    You put these kinds of problems together with economic recession issues like less income resulting in less travel, and you get yes, more people doing stay-at-home things.

    And then you have folks like my hubby who has always been more of a spectator than a player, who prefers armchair research, and more armchair nature over the real, humid-buggy-haul-ass-and-gear nature.

    It’s always multifactoral and complex.


  4. actually, overuse was in their analysis, and wasn’t a factor.

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