How has human interaction with nature changed over the last few decades? That’s the question that fueled an ambitious new research project studying how close people live to nature now, compared to 20 years ago. Researchers defined a natural area as one with a low “human footprint” (buildings, roads, etc.). They found that the average person currently lives 9.7 kilometers (6 miles) away from a natural area, which is 7% farther away than we did in the year 2000. “Indeed, the study reveals that the destruction of natural areas combined with a strong increase in urban population is leading to a growing spatial distance between humans and nature, especially in Asia, Africa and South America,” Gladys Barragan-Jason, Ph.D., a co-author of the study, says in a news release. Barragan-Jason’s team found that we might be becoming more emotionally distanced too, as there is proportionally less nature imagery in novels, songs, children’s albums, and animated movies these days than there was several decades ago. (Read the research here.)

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