First saw this in the New Scientist: â€œVideo games, surfing the web and high gas prices can explain a dramatic fall in the number of visitors to US National Parks.â€
This finding comes from an article in the The Journal of Environmental Management by Oliver Pergams and Patricia Zaradic (in press), “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 prices”. (BTW, that’s the most descriptive title I’ve ever seen in a journal.)
Aside from the troubling implications (why actually see the park when you can visit it online!), the article contains a nicely straightforward analysis of data. Comparing annual number of park visits to a variety of annual cumulative or average numbers, the authors found significant correlations in the decline of park visits to the average number of hours per year of television watched, video games played, home movies watched, theatre movies watched, and Internet used. The decline in park visits also correlates with the rise in the absolute price of gasoline. The drop was measured from 1987 to 2002, so itâ€™s not reflective of the spike (in real dollars) of gasoline that weâ€™ve experienced this year.
The authors mention that these factors also track the growing sedentary lifestyle in North America since in-home entertainment doesn’t require so much physical activity (except for the muscles in one’s hand, of course). This and the price of gas will continue to contribute to a decline in the number of park visits.
For those of you with children, heed the following from the article (p. 1): “It has been found important that people be exposed to natural areas as children if they are to care about them as adults.” If you want your children to connect with nature, start taking them to national and regional parks NOW.
Update: Of course, the National Park Service might very well elevate the number of park visits by accommodating the electronically abled.