A paper by Pergams and Zaradic in the most recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that we are experiencing "a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation." Using a variety of time series measurements of nature-based recreation (e.g., national park visitations, hunting licenses issued, survey-based estimates of camping participation), Pergams and Zaradic find that per capita participation in such activities has decreased since 1987 at a rate of more than 1% annually. Does this portend dark times for future environmentalism? Maybe. There is evidence (cited in the paper) that people become more environmentally responsible from direct contact with nature and that for adults to care about natural areas, they must be exposed to them as children. It doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to guess what types of recreational activities are competing with national-park going to cause this decline. Indeed, the authors have coined the term "videophilia" to describe "the new human tendency to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media."
Pergams, O.R.W. and P. A. Zaradic. (2008) Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation PNAS 2008 105: 2295-2300. doi:10.1073/pnas.0709893105