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Global Climate Change
Meets Ecophobia
Environmental Learning and Activism
Swiss National Science Foundation Study,
Matthias Finger
The study compared adults whose knowledge about
the environment was based mostly on media
presentations of ecological catastrophes vs. adults
whose knowledge about the environment came from
extensive nature experiences and activism,
Finger found that, “environmental behavior is less the result
of learning and knowledge and more the result of particular
environmental experiences,” and that, “some
environmental learning does not necessarily translate into
more responsible behavior towards the environment and can
even be counterproductive.”
First, “Nature experiences seem to be a necessary condition
for any type of environmentally responsible behavior.”
Second, “Experiences of environmental activism emerge
as another crucial condition for any environmental
behavior. ”
Third, “Fear and anxiety of environmental problems has
the potential to turn environmental education into a
counter-productive activity.”
Fourth, “When low fear is involved, environmental
knowledge and information do make a difference in terms
of environmental behavior.”
A review of the
biographies of environmentalists
When Louise Chawla of
Kentucky State University
reviewed these studies, she
found a striking pattern. Most
environmentalists attributed
their commitment to a
combination of two sources,
"many hours spent outdoors in a
keenly remembered wild or semiwild place in childhood or
adolescence, and an adult who
taught respect for nature."
“Hands on experience at the critical time, not
systematic knowledge is what counts in the making
of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a
while and not to know the names or anatomical
detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just
searching and dreaming.
The Relationship between Nature Play and
Adult Environmental Behavior
*Wild nature play correlates
with environmental
attitudes and behaviors.
*Domesticated nature play
correlates with
environmental attitudes
and only slightly with
*Environmental education
correlates with neither.
Wells and Leckies, “Nature and the
Life Course “
Iowa Farmers Study
Jim Pease
Childhood Experience &
Adult Environmental Behaviors
*hunting and fishing with
parents as children
*berry picking and mushroom
collecting with parents as
*horse-back riding
*access to play in natural area
*reading books about nature
Ladder of Environmental Responsibility
grades 4-6