Access to Nature and Green Space Should Be a Right, Not a Privilege

 By Tonia Callender, research fellow, GWI

We all need nature for our wellbeing. Whether we visit a national park or local gardens, nature and green space make us healthier. [i] Given that the majority of the global population live in urban environments, with vanishing green spaces, it’s not surprising that travelers increasingly seek out nature on their trips.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to enjoy visiting a park, gardens or that instagrammable scenic location. The Global Wellness Summit’s 2021 trend “Adding Color to Wellness” discussed BIPOC lack of access to nature, in their neighborhoods and farther afield. If we’re going to bring wellness to all, it’s time to make nature and green spaces far more inclusive by addressing the barriers confronting different communities–including people with disabilities, racial minorities, older adults, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Around the world, many groups, including people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, older adults, and the LGBTQ+ community, have less access to nature.[i] They confront a variety of barriers such as distance, travel cost, and transit roadblocks.[ii] Some feel uncomfortable and even unsafe in local and national parks, nature trails, and hiking paths. In growing urban areas, people who live in poorer neighborhoods, women, minority groups and people who identify as LGBTQ+ have less access to safe green areas.[iii] When they do get outside, they may encounter inaccessible paths, hostility, or harassment, leaving them feeling unwelcome.

Despite these barriers, underrepresented groups remain eager to explore nature. They are forging ahead, bringing greater inclusion and accessibly to outdoor spaces. Grassroots groups like Muslim Hikers, Wild Diversity, QPOC Hikers, Venture Out and Disabled Hikers are creating safe, stress-free opportunities to visit nature. Websites and travel groups, including the Global Green Book, Out Adventures, and Travel for All, link nature seekers to welcoming destinations.

Governments can bolster these efforts to reduce barriers via policies that “green” neighborhoods, improve transit options, address bias, and create accessible trails. Last fall, the UK government announced a plan that includes creating more accessible green spaces. In the United States, California has developed an “Outdoors for All” strategy that includes more accessible trails, greater green spaces in resource-poor communities, and free or low-cost park entry for residents.

Everyone deserves equal access to nature, and all of us benefit when our communities are healthier and happier. But we are all different. We need green spaces that respect and reflect our differences. Working together, communities, policymakers and business groups can help more of us experience nature.

Read the GWS trend “Adding Color to Wellness

[i] 1) Mental Health Foundation. (2021). Nature: How connecting with nature benefits our mental health. Mental Health Awareness Week 2021. 2) Nejade, R. et al. (2022). What is the impact of nature on human health? A scoping review of the literature. Journal of global health, 12, 04099. 3) White, M.P. et al. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730.

[i] 1) Wolf, I.D. and Waitt, G. (2023). Towards liveable cities: A review of ethnicity, public urban nature space and wellbeing. Ambio 52, 1505–1518 2) Robinson, T. et al. (2022). Examining Psychosocial and Economic Barriers to Green Space Access for Racialised Individuals and Families: A Narrative Literature Review of the Evidence to Date. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(1), 745. 3) Wall-Reinius, S. et. al. (2023) Access to Nature for Persons with Disabilities: Perspectives and Practices of Swedish Tourism Providers, Tourism Planning & Development, 20:3, 336-354,

[ii] Park, K. et al., (2021). Transit to parks: An environmental justice study of transit access to large parks in the U.S. West. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 60. See Also Huerta, C. M., (2022). Rethinking the distribution of urban green spaces in Mexico City: Lessons from the COVID-19 outbreak. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 70

[iii] See (2021). Mental Health Foundation. See also Aguilar-Carrasco, M. J. et al. (2023). Assessment of barriers for people with disability to enjoy national parks. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 1058647.

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