Wild Brighton

Understanding how young people can be better engaged with nature and its restoration

‘Wild Brighton’ poster featuring species and landscapes associated with Sussex. Artwork by Izzy Taylor

Engaging with the natural world benefits both people and nature. As the future stewards of the planet’s biodiversity, it is vital that young people are able to form meaningful connections with the land and its wildlife. However, teenagers and young adults face several barriers to accessing, understanding and enjoying nature.

Wild Brighton, our team of four master’s students at the University of Sussex, wanted to discover what those key barriers were and how best to overcome them. To do this, we decided to ask young people (aged 15-25) what they thought.

What did we find?

Our online questionnaire was targeted at 15-25 year-olds and gathered 319 responses, including 50 from within Sussex, UK (our focal area). Here are some key findings:

  • 99% of respondents believed that not enough is being done to protect the environment. 
  • 55% of the participants thought that people in their age group are not engaging with nature.
  • When asked why young people weren’t engaging with nature, the most frequently chosen reasons were “lack of interest”, “nature is not their priority”, and “they feel that it does not directly affect them.”
  • When asked what would improve nature engagement, the highest proportion (80%) suggested that “more influence from friends and social groups” would make “a lot” of difference. Providing more volunteering opportunities was ranked as the least effective solution.
  • Most respondents (80%) received environmental information via social media.
What does this mean?

Our results suggest that apathetic attitudes (lack of interest or feeling disassociated with nature) are key barrier to nature engagement for young people. They also suggest that the best perceived way to overcome this barrier is by making nature engagement more socially relevant to younger people.

We think this means that organisations need to push for more youth-led activities and hand some ownership of the land to the next generation. We also think that smart use of social media platforms is key, particularly engaging more with local influencers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.