Lynn Ross - When Did You First Fall in Love with Nature?




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Apr 27, 2017
by Lynn Ross
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Lynn Ross - When Did You First Fall in Love with Nature?

Salzburg Global Fellow discusses her experience at the most recent Parks for the Planet Forum Lynn Ross attended Session 574 - The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play

This post was first published on Lynn Ross' LinkedIn profile. Ross attended Session 574 - The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play, which is part of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum.

I first fell in love with nature as a child playing for hours on end in the backyard of my family home where the grass, trees and flowers were animated participants in all my magical backyard adventures. Even as a dedicated city dweller my love affair with nature has continued into adulthood, so I was honored to become a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar last month during Session 574, “The Child in the City: Health, Parks, and Play.

This session, hosted over 4 days at the amazing Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria, included advocates, researchers and practitioners representing 20 countries. Each participant brought a unique perspective and a wealth of experience. Here are just a few of the interesting initiatives I learned about:

  •     Urban95 is a global initiative of the Bernard van de Leer Foundation that asks what city leaders, designers, and planners what they would do differently if they viewed the city an elevation of 95 cm – the average height of a healthy 3-year-old.
  •     The Laboratorio para la Ciudad in Mexico City is using research to explore play and developing tools for engaging children in government through their Playful City initiative.
  •     Park Rx America is handing out “park prescriptions” to reduce chronic illness by mapping parks and providing info on making the most of the park (including transit tips to get there).
  •     City Health, an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation, has rated 40 cities on nine evidence-supported policy areas that support community health and well-being.
  •     Natural Neighbors is an international effort designed to promote expanded alliances with museums, schools and universities and parks and conservation areas by linking exhibits, outreach materials and activities across organizations.

During the session, I also had the pleasure of leading a discussion on moving from incremental change to transformation. Through case studies from the United Kingdom, the United States and Singapore, the panel shared the following key takeaways which apply not only to kids and nature, but to any community building effort:

  •     Have a big, inclusive vision that people can see themselves in.
  •     Clearly articulate the value proposition and theory of change early in the process.
  •     Build meaningful, inclusive partnerships and are those partners with the tools they need support the work and outreach.
  •     Prioritize crafting and customizing messages for diverse audiences.
  •     Build a culture of learning and plan for evaluation into the effort from the start.

There were many more efforts, takeaways and resources shared throughout the session and I encourage you to check out the “Resources” section of the session page.

On the final day of the session, we started the process of transforming our collective learning into a set of principles that can be shared broadly. A smaller group of participants is continuing that work post-session. In addition, each participant shared personal commitments to continue the work of the session in their daily practice. It’s no surprise that my experience in Salzburg is already influencing my work on the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, but what has been a surprise is how much the experience has me thinking about the role of nature, parks and play as part of housing affordability and equitable community development.

So, I’ll leave you where I started but with an addition: when did you first fall in love with nature? And what can you do in your practice to ensure that all children will someday get to answer that same question?

Lynn Ross was a participant in the Salzburg Global program The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play, which is part of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum, a series held in partnership with the IUCN. The session was supported by the Huffington Foundation, Parks Canada and Korea National Park and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. More information on the session can be found here: