Florence Williams, environmental writer and author of "The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative," will be the keynote speaker for the 2017 George B. Hartzog Jr. Lecture.

Florence Williams, author of “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative,” will be the keynote speaker for the 2017 George B. Hartzog Jr. Lecture.
Image Credit: Sue Barr

CLEMSON — Renowned environmental and health writer Florence Williams will present the 2017 George B. Hartzog Jr. Lecture at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31, in the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts at Clemson University.

A contributing editor to Outdoor Magazine and a freelance writer for several publications, including The New York Times and National Geographic, Williams is the author of “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.”

The Clemson University Institute for Parks presents the annual lecture and an accompanying awards program to showcase leading figures in the field of conservation. The lecture and awards program are named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service. This year, the Clemson-based U.S. Play Coalition is partnering with the Institute for Parks to put on the event.

Williams’ presentation will summarize findings in her book, which describe the importance of nature to individuals’ health and well-being, particularly as people’s lives shift more indoors.

To determine nature’s impact on humans, she traveled to forests in Korea and parks in Helsinki, studied the brainwaves of urban pedestrians in Edinburgh and examined the effects of river-rafting in the American West on veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

She uncovered emerging science that suggests that in our increasingly technological and urban society we have essentially forgotten about nature’s potential for reinvigoration, self-reinvention and basic well-being.

A Yale University graduate with a bachelor’s degrees in English and environmental studies, she holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Montana. She is also a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature as well as a visiting scholar at George Washington University, where her work focuses on the environment, health and science.

She’s won several journalism and literary awards including a 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the science and technology category, as well as a 2017 Gracie Award for podcasting.

Clemson University Institute for Parks Director Bob Powell said he is proud to have Williams discuss the important connection between nature and our well-being.

“Parks, whether small urban parks or huge national parks, provide the ideal opportunity for people of all ages to experience nature,” Powell said. “The benefits that Williams highlights in her book reinforce the importance of supporting and protecting our parks and public lands.”

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Earlier that same day, four people will be recognized and honored during the George B. Hartzog Jr. Awards Luncheon:

  • Sarah Milligan-Toffler, executive director of the Children and Nature Network, will receive the Fran P. Mainella Award for sustained and innovate achievement by a woman in the management of North America’s natural, historic or cultural heritage.
  • Jeff Skibins, an assistant professor of park management and conservation from Kansas State University, will receive the Dwight A. Holder Award. This award recognizes outstanding work by doctoral graduates from the Clemson University parks, recreation and tourism management and forestry and environmental conservation departments.
  • Dave Hallac, superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in eastern North Carolina, will receive the Walter T. Cox Award. This award recognizes sustained leadership and achievement in public service.
  • Troy Hall, head of the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University, will receive the Benton H. Box Award, which recognizes a leader who works to preserve the natural environment and an educator who inspires in students the quest for knowledge and encourages curriculum innovation.


Clemson University Institute for Parks
The Clemson University Institute for Parks (CUIP) provides research, education, training and outreach that enhances the management of the world’s parks and protected areas. It accomplishes this by providing park and protected area managers with innovative research to support science-based decision-making; and by developing current and future leaders in the park movement by providing interdisciplinary and transformative education and training programs. Currently the CUIP has 35 Clemson University Faculty Affiliates (Fellows) from four colleges.

U.S. Play Coalition
The U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promotes the value of play throughout life. Housed at Clemson University, it is part of the University’s parks, recreation and tourism management department.