The Effect of Covid-19 on Nature Access

Authors: Lucy Whaley*, , Hilary Byerly Flint , University of Colorado, Boulder, Courtney Wagner, Stanford, Keri Watson, University of the South
Topics: Environment
Keywords: Covid-19, Public Green Space, Environmental Justice
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Covid-19 pandemic and associated public health measures have altered people's ability to access nature. While the circumstances of the pandemic may limit the ability of many to access public greenspace, others may have increased access to nature because of stay at home orders or the switch to remote work. A growing body of research has established a link between nature exposure and mental health, thus these changes in nature access have important public health implications. Increased time spent in nature could potentially serve as a coping mechanism during this time of heightened stress, whereas loss of nature access could exacerbate mental health risks. Using a representative survey of New York (n=1000) and California (n=1000), we explore how the pandemic has affected people's time spent in nature. We find that approximately twice as many people lost access to nature compared to those who gained time in nature or saw no change in their nature exposure. We also find that those who experienced changes in nature exposure (gains or losses) were more likely to have experienced changes in employment, to be under a shelter in place order, and to have children at home than those who did not. Furthermore, changes in nature access disproportionately affected minority populations. We offer one assessment in two US states of how the pandemic has shifted nature access. Our results indicate that shifts in nature access may have important mental health and environmental justice implications that warrant further investigation.

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