Bybarn i naturen

Barn i dag blir overbeskyttet, overdesinfisert og mister sin naturlige tilknytning til matkilder, natur og sin egen frie lek, mener Gloudina som har skrevet Luftpost fra Spania.

I Ecuador er det vanlig at ville dyr blir tatt til fange og brukes som kjæledyr. Dette er forbudt ifølge ecuadoriansk lov, men likevel er handel med ville jungeldyr ganske vanlig.
For mange av dyrene i fangenskap, blir det et tøft liv med lite eller ingen tilsyn. Gloudina Joy Greenacre jobbet som daglig leder av et dyresenter i Amasonas da vår journalist Kjersti Veel Krauss møtte henne i rollen som frivillig for 13 år siden.

I dag jobber Gloudina med å gi naturopplevelser til bybarn fra Barcelona gjennom organisasjonen Wild me.


Barcelona november 2020

Dear Kjersti,

“Just to let you know that I’m finally in the jungle… no words are good enough to describe the place, the people, the views, the smells, the noises… my first sleep in my wooden cabin was spectacular yesterday, I even had a swim in a river nearby first thing this morning!” – this was the first message I wrote to my family from the animal rescue centre in the Amazon.

There is where we met and shared so many adventures – I’m sure you remember 😉, and now looking back I have to say was the summit of my life career in nature connection and deeply understanding the responsibilities that we carry as human beings. Which is what I want to write to you about.

It all starts way back… I was born into a privileged family during the late apartheid years of South Africa. My parents, never minding their family inheritance, were open-minded, free and loving. Our home was on a big plot of land in a small town with lots of outdoor space to get lost in. The most important thing that I believe my parents did was spend time at home during our early childhood, follow the natural (slow) rhythm of life, and grant us freedom to go our own way – despite the risk of kidnapping, murder and organized crime in the area. Family days were mostly outdoors, immersed in simple activities like playing, exploring, gardening, picnicking, or just sitting. I started school at the age of 5.

I will always retain the moments of true connection in nature that have provided me with so much during life; from these moments I have harvested feelings of wonder, faith, courage, certainty, love, empathy, wholeness, and many others that have allowed me to understand my place and my feelings during my 36 years of life, and counting… It is true that I was blessed with inspirational experiences wandering around the Kruger National Park as a young girl, waking up at dawn to go animal-spotting, absorbing remarkable sights of herds of elephants, wildebeest, giraffe and now and then a majestic leopard, sweeping through the savannah. These were my moments of love at first sight, of realizing my purpose in life. However, the moments of true connection that I mean, were (and continue being) more humble everyday instants, such as the excitement of making a hiding place in the bushes, the feeling of going for a walk in the field and no-one knowing where I was, the adventure of making a fire and staring at its power, the pleasure of devouring a whole mango lying on the grass with juice trickling down my neck, or the mindfulness of looking up to the sky and spotting animals in the clouds.

I can surely confirm what the experts say: you only retain 5% of what you learn theoretically, but you retain, for life, 100% of the feelings that you experience through active learning.

During my teenage years I lived in rural Barcelona, the place where my father decided we would continue our life adventure. From there I ventured off into the Amazon region of Ecuador to end up working alongside vets, the environmental Ministry of Ecuador and many warm-hearted volunteers like you, to try and help those wild animals that I had fallen in love with. My true passion and devotion to wild animals, led me to work with people and organisations more than ever as well as attempting to understand human power and the potential of making change. My firmest learning was to mingle with the Amazonian people and distinguish how to make fair proposals that fit in with their way of living, interests and needs. I spent a lot of time surrounded by the young children of these communities, who taught me more than I can express in words. Their simplicity, enthusiasm, creativity, resourcefulness, happiness and agility have marked me for life; and with them is where my present life purpose was born.

In 2012 I settled back in rural Barcelona after 10 years in Ecuador, and my career working to rewild children began. Well, it began the moment I saw children falling off their chairs at school. I was working teaching English to young children, and also had a son of my own, which brought me into contact with many family groups and activities. And I was shocked with what I saw. Children falling over their own feet, not able to name any of the wild animals and plants that live in their surroundings, parents controlling their children’s every move, children with low immune systems, child obesity, an increasingly medicated youth… to name a few. I started reading about childhood development and the need for outdoor play, and I realised that everything that the Amazonian children had, was what children here lacked. From what I could make out, the ‘poor children’ were no longer those unschooled barefooted little jungle people. The less fortunate seem to now be our educated European children here, who have everything but lack what’s most important. Freedom, autonomy, active play in nature, a healthy diet, community life, family time, time to get bored…

Here in Catalonia the childhood we knew (not so long ago, say in the 80s and 90s) that of outdoor adventures, running, climbing trees and investigating abandoned streets and corners, has evolved into something that many of us do not recognize. A significant number of changes have combined to form the perfect storm. I’ll name just a few of them.

Busy lives. Parents rely on structured activities and new technologies to manage their time. In Catalonia it is common that at least one of the parents work until 7 or 8 in the evening, if not both.

Gardens have been turned into balconies, parks into concrete spaces or roads. We see very few green play spaces for children inside towns and small cities, and abandoned lots are considered dirty and dangerous. Plus, families don’t spend time on squares and streets as they used to.

Fear about the safety of children. The majority of parents here have what experts call the boogey-man syndrome. Parents feel the need to protect their children from perceived dangers of the outdoors. While I am sensitive to the urge to protect our children, vast studies and data debunk many of these inflated perceived threats. They state that the streets have actually become safer for children. Rather, actively teaching children to watch for behaviours that can be threats will make them safer, more capable to defend themselves if needed, while keeping them at home will make them vulnerable and helpless in front of potential threats.

Some other issues affecting our future generations that need to be addressed and that have simple solutions are:

The over sanitization of childcare spaces. Accentuated by the present health crisis, day-care centres and schools are highly disinfected. Did you know that to combat the lack of exposure to microbes, some centres are injecting necessary beneficial microbes into sandpits and play spaces?! Play spaces with organic green and earth and local plants are vital for children to develop a healthy immune system. The ideal is to take children 5 days a week to play in a natural area, but transforming playgrounds into green organic spaces has proved to benefit the immune system of urban children just as much as these nature excursions.

Detachment from the source of food. Connection to farm life is disappearing and families mostly eat processed packaged foods. Children have poor diets, don’t access local produce, and are not aware of where food comes from and how to consume more ecologically in the future. Taking them out to nature and rural surroundings is a must.

And then there’s ignorance; the fact that generally, parents themselves do not know the green forested areas nearby their towns and cities, so don’t go there. And I’m talking about green areas which here in rural Catalonia are accessible, safe, diverse and just gorgeous. But families stay indoors, and their children lead a sedentary lifestyle plugged into their devices, and a disconnection from nature into adulthood, creating a worrying trend for the future of conservation, the economy, and the health and well-being of our communities. To love something, you have to get to know it.

In conclusion, we should do everything we can to encourage the emerging movement of what is sometimes called experiential education. We should also challenge some of the driving forces behind our current approach to nature, including a loss of respect for nature and the death of natural history in higher education. School programs that utilize the land around schools and the greening or re-vegetating school lots with native plants have been proven to increase children’s performance in school and attention in the classroom. This type of school, which utilizes green space and incorporates time outdoors into the school day, is the exception to the rule, but should be the norm. As should more interaction between environmental organizations, nature preserves and wildlife sanctuaries – and schools.

This is why, Kjersti, I have created Wild Me (, which is my proposal to reconnect families to their nearby natural surroundings and promote healthier school and play spaces, accessible to all. I like to think of it as bringing children here closer to a childhood in the Amazon.

The changes are simple, the harms low, and the potential benefits widespread.

Lots of love,



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