Petition Closed
Petitioning United Nations General Assembly

Amendment to the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child: "Access to Nature"

        The UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child states:

That every child world-wide has the right to free play and recreation, as these are an essential part of childhood education.

        We believe in an amendment to the declaration which includes, under Principle 7, that along with play and recreation: all children must have the right to access nature as it relates not only to education, but childhood development and both physical and mental health.

   

 

The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child -- First proposed in 1924, last amended on November 20, 1989.

Principle 7 States:

        "The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He/she shall be given an education, which will promote his/her general culture and enable him/her, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his/her abilities, his/her individual judgment, and his/her sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.

        The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his/her education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his/her parents.

        The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right."

Proposed Amendment:

        “The child shall have full opportunity for play, recreation and access to nature, which should be directed to the same purposes as education and health; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right.”

 

        There is no better medium than nature to guide and ground the tenents of education, to encourage the healthy cognitive development of children and youth, and to foster in our children a sense of empathy and passion for the outdoors.  Early childhood experiences in nature help to establish a strong groundwork for the next generation of environmentalists, of scientists and educators, of politicians and of government. Change starts from the bottom and the bottom is young.  

        I believe this access -- to untamed wild spaces, whether simply the long grass of an un-mowed field or the trickle of a creek -- is something that we have an obligation to guarantee to our children.

         "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are tought." -- Baba Dioum

 

       However, there is a growing disconnect between children and the natural world.           As of May 2007 (approx.), human civilization reached a new milestone when, for the first time in human history, a greater percentage of the world's population lived in urban centres rather than rural areas. Rising from 13% (220 million) in 1900, to 29% (732 million) in 1950, to 49% (3.2 billion) in 2005, the United Nations estimates that by 2050, over 6 billion people will be living in towns and cities.

        As populations rise, so too do conversations over how to effectively allocate and utilize land for the benefits of people – including thoughts toward energy needs, food production, subsistence and health.

        This is a petition to argue that as the conversation moves forward, it should be noted that nature has a vital role to play in the lives of children and adults, with specific regards to cognitive development, education and health.

        As increasing studies have come to show, the benefits of nature include, but are not limited to: the reduction of stress, attention deficit disorder, depression and obesity.

        In both "developed" and "developing" societies, what is seen as urbanization grows are genealogical trends demonstrating a decline in the family farm, the over-extraction of natural resources coupled with the restriction of wild-spaces to bordered parks and the growing ubiquity of technology and its access.

        In all cases, there is an increasing disconnect between children and the natural world. Since David Sobel (founder of the place-based education philosophy and Director of Certificate Programs at Antioch University) published “Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education” in 1996, the argument for nature’s presence during the formative stages of childhood development has become, in this regard, undeniable & imperative—for health, development, and especially for education.

        Sobel argues that by encouraging access to nature and including it within pedagogy, “education becomes more grounded, more concrete and more accessible.”

        “Primary school children should be learning the geography of their neighbourhood before they start learning the geography of the whole country or other continents. For instance, drainage patterns in the playground can model the structure of river systems, he points out. It is an ideal way for children to see how water always flows downhill and helps them understand how meanders and tributaries work.

        “We are always overlooking the miniature world that is available to us right next door,” he says. “We are neglecting those kinds of opportunities as teaching tools.”

        In addition to the benefits for health and the grounding of education in tangible sensory-based learning, we must consider the importance of building the next generation of environmental stewards:

        “Let us allow children to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.”

        “All those free play experiences in the natural world – building forts and picking your own paths in the woods – [these] are the basis for environmental values and behaviours in adulthood.”

        “Perhaps what the 19th century US writer and philosopher David Thomas Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings”.

 

UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child:

http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/humanrights/resources/child.asp

Letter to
United Nations General Assembly
Amendment to the Declaration of the Rights of the Child: "Access to Nature"

Amendment to Principle 7 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child to include: "Access to Nature" -- entitlement to "play and recreation" as it relates to the purposes of education.

As of May 2007 (approx.), human civilization reached a new milestone when, for the first time in human history, a greater percentage of the world's population has come to be living in Urban centres rather than rural areas. Rising from 13% (220 million) in 1900, to 29% (732 million) in 1950, to 49% (3.2 billion) in 2005, the United Nations estimates that by 2050, over 6 billion people will be living in towns and cities.

As populations rise, so too do conversations over how to effectively allocate and utilize land for the benefits of people – including thoughts toward energy needs, food production, subsistence and health.

This is a petition to argue that as the conversation moves forward, it should be noted that nature has a vital role to play in the lives of children and adults, with specific regards to cognitive development, education and health.

As increasing studies have come to show, the benefits include, but are not limited to: the reduction of stress, attention deficit disorder, depression and obesity.

In regards to children and youth, couple with urbanization are genealogical trends demonstrating a decline in the family farm, as well as the growing ubiquity of technology and its access. In this environment, what is seen is an increasing disconnect between children and the natural world. Since David Sobel (founder of the place-based education philosophy and Director of Certificate Programs at Antioch University) published “Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education” in 1996, the argument for nature’s presence during the formative stages of childhood development has become, in this regard, undeniable & imperative—for health, and especially education.

Sobel argues that by encouraging access to nature and including it within pedagogy, “education becomes more grounded, more concrete and more accessible.”

“Primary school children should be learning the geography of their neighbourhood before they start learning the geography of the whole country or other continents. For instance, drainage patterns in the playground can model the structure of river systems, he points out. It is an ideal way for children to see how water always flows downhill and helps them understand how meanders and tributaries work.

“We are always overlooking the miniature world that is available to us right next door,” he says. “We are neglecting those kinds of opportunities as teaching tools.”

In addition to the benefits for health and the grounding of education in tangible sensory-based learning, we must consider the importance of building the next generation of environmental stewards:

“Let us allow children to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.”

“All those free play experiences in the natural world – building forts and picking your own paths in the woods – [these] are the basis for environmental values and behaviours in adulthood.”

“Perhaps what the 19th century US writer and philosopher David Thomas Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings”.


The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child -- First proposed in 1924, last amended on November 20, 1989.



This, I propose to be the amended article of Principle 7; below the principle in its original entirety followed by the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child in full:

“The child shall have full opportunity for play, recreation [and access to nature,] which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right.”



Principle 7:

"The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He/she shall be given an education, which will promote his/her general culture and enable him/her, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his/her abilities, his/her individual judgment, and his/her sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.

The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his/her education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his/her parents.

The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right."


DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
[Proclaimed by General Assembly Resolution 1386(XIV) of 20 November 1959.
This was the basis of the basis of the Convention of the Rights of the Child
adopted by the UN General Assembly 30 years later on 20 November 1989.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was entered into force on 2 September 1990. ]


Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have, in the Charter, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person, and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas the United Nations has, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,

Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth,

Whereas the need for such special safeguards has been stated in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924, and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the statutes of specialized agencies and international organizations concerned with the welfare of children,

Whereas mankind owes to the child the best it has to give,

Now therefore, The General Assembly Proclaims this Declaration of the Rights of the Child to the end that he may have a happy childhood and enjoy for his own good and for the good of society the rights and freedoms herein set forth, and calls upon parents, upon men and women as individuals, and upon voluntary organizations, local authorities and national overnments to recognize these rights and strive for their observance by legislative and other measures progressively taken in accordance with the following principles:

Principle 1
The child shall enjoy all the rights set forth in this Declaration. Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights, without distinction or discrimination on account of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.

Principle 2
The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.

Principle 3
The child shall be entitled from his birth to a name and a nationality.

Principle 4
The child shall enjoy the benefits of social security. He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care.

The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.

Principle 5
The child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition.

Principle 6
The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support. Payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of children of large families is desirable.

Principle 7
The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.

The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents.

The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right.

Principle 8
The child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief.

Principle 9
The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic, in any form.

The child shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or employment which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere with