The Importance Of Wildness

When I want a break from the daily grind, I go outside. Paddling in my kayak, walking the sandbars of a river, or bicycling on a woodland trail bring me so much peace. Nature is the great equalizer.

Karma Larsen is a communications associate with the Nebraska Forest Service. She says being out in the wild has many benefits.

"Wildness is comfortable for us whether you’re alone or you’re with others. It reduces stress, it tends to really enhance social interactions. It tends to be less competitive, more appreciative of the surroundings," says Larsen. "For children, the studies are clear that for Attention Deficit and other problems like that, this can really give them space and freedom."

Few of us have areas of true wilderness nearby and we’ll travel great distances to national parks and forests just to see and experience it. But you can enjoy the same benefits from your own yard. Plant natives that attract pollinators, develop habitat for wildlife, and give your landscape a few rough edges.

"There are areas that you probably want turf and you want areas to play. But for people with young children, if you can behind some shrubs or in a place where it won’t bother you, just allow children a space where there’s loose soil, loose dirt, loose rocks," she says. "They can rearrange things as much as they want and leave them be, that’s just huge."

From a scientific point of view, wild areas filter the air, remove pollutants from the water, and give shelter for wildlife. Larsen says they serve as kind of a “canary in the coal mine” and when we pay attention, can offer clues for what’s happening in our natural systems.