Nature and Me

How did the COVID-19 lockdown affect us and to what extent did we miss the open air and our connection with the natural landscapes? Following the “extinction of (nature) experience” phenomenon that is increasing with accelerated development and the digital age, we at Ramat Hanadiv continue to study the interface between people and nature.

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Have you ever asked yourself why you go for hikes in nature? Most of us do this out of necessity or willingly. What is this necessity and can it be defined in words? And why exactly does the time we spend in nature cause us to feel one way or another?

The connection between humans and nature has been an interesting subject for literature, art and research from time immemorial. It has already been proven that spending time in natural landscapes contributes extensively to human health and positive wellbeing. In recent years, in the age of accelerated development, “reverse” research has also developed around the reduction in time spent in nature and its consequences.

Until the last few years, research at Ramat Hanadiv, which was initiated over 25 years ago, focused on nature as an ecosystem that humans are not a part of. Recently we have also begun to study humans and their interface with nature. ‘We realise more and more that understanding humans – that is, their behaviour, preferences and perceptions towards different types of nature, is no less important than understanding nature itself. We are examining the extent and nature of the connection of visitors to Ramat Hanadiv with the natural environment, aiming to understand how we can empower the nature experience in different ways’, says Liat Hadar, Head of Research at Ramat Hanadiv.

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We are examining the extent and nature of the connection of visitors to Ramat Hanadiv with the natural environment, aiming to understand how we can empower the nature experience in different ways

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Who Visits Ramat Hanadiv?

The site of Ramat Hanadiv Park, which was chosen by James, the son of Baron Rothschild, as a burial site for his father, includes rich, diverse nature: one quarter of the plant species of Israel grow here alongside 31 species of mammals, and almost 50 species of birds breed in the various and diverse vegetation and landscape units.

In total, about half a million people visit the park annually. The first study to focus on the interface between visitors and the park took place in 2016 in collaboration with researchers from The Hebrew University. It aimed to characterise the different types of visitors to the park and their conduct in the field, using GPS devices. Following this study three populations were mapped:

  1. The national visitor population, which views Ramat Hanadiv mainly as a tourist attraction and primarily visits the memorial gardens and the main trails of the nature park.
  2. The region’s residents, who relate to the park as a place for social gatherings such as picnics or other gatherings.
  3. Residents of Zichron Ya’akov, who live adjacent to the park, are intimately familiar with all of its trails and visit frequently for sports purposes or for a daily walk with their dog. This population perceives Ramat Hanadiv more as a nature site than does the population that comes from afar.
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People sometimes need nature to be presented to them by other people in order to connect to it themselves

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More about the Research and its Results

Extinction of Experience

In 2019 we took our research to a new level, following increasing awareness about the ‘extinction of experience’ phenomenon: more and more people are cutting themselves off from nature and connecting to the digital world. In another study, which took place at Ramat Hanadiv in collaboration with researchers from The Technion, nearly 1,000 visitors to the park were asked what they took from the visitor experience and whether they were aware of the values of the site and the work done in it.

The study showed that the visitors’ nature experience is influenced mostly by hands-on, planned activities, such as counting butterflies. When the visitors participated in these activities, they opened up to further experiences, such as listening to bird sounds or detecting other animals. ‘People sometimes need nature to be presented to them by other people in order to connect to it themselves’, says Liat.

And then COVID-19 came – when the public landscape close to home was in its prime. We asked ourselves whether COVID-19 changed people’s appreciation of the natural landscapes when their movement within them was restricted. Has awareness of sustainability issues changed following the public discourse? We distributed the same questionnaire that was used in the previous study to people visiting the park during May and June 2020; we are currently analysing the results and promise to keep you updated. In the meantime, we invite you to keep visiting and spending as much time as possible in nature, enjoying, acting, playing and connecting.

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