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Does nature encourage pro-environmental behaviours?

How do we learn about nature? In this article, the University of Derby will explore the best ways to learn about environmental behaviours.
© University of Derby

Quite often people have sought to improve pro-nature behaviours through environmental education.

Environmental knowledge

A fundamental component of environmental education and a traditional aspect of nature engagement is environmental knowledge. In this article, we will consider what we mean by knowledge of nature and if it is indispensable to the promotion of sustainable behaviour.

We will discuss if knowing about nature is enough to care about it.

Figure 3.5: Children interacting with nature Image shows two children looking through a magnifying glass at a tree's bark.

‘The meaning of know’

Some of those seeking to build a more caring relationship with nature suggest that ‘We won’t love what we don’t know’. Some cite Richard Louv ‘We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know’ – however, the quote continues – ‘and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense’. Louv (2012, pg. 104).

At this point, we need to clarify what Louv is actually referring to. Although you may already be familiar with the concept of knowledge as developing awareness through observation, inquiry, or information, Louv actually means that we need to have a close and enduring emotional attachment with nature.

Developing a relationship with nature

Louv also refers to a sense of place, relationships, beauty and wonder. This means that we can understand knowledge in this context in terms of having ‘developed a relationship with’ nature (Louv, 2012, pg. 117).

So, to see, hear and sense are part of the meaning of ‘know’ – to be aware of and have developed a relationship with.

So rather than know that a tree is an oak we should consider what ‘know’ in this context means. You need to see, sense, hear, notice, experience, appreciate, feel, behold and be friends with the tree. Then you’re likely to want to learn that the tree is oak and understand its ecology and cultural significance.

Reference list

Louv, R. (2012) The nature principle: Reconnecting with life in a virtual age. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books.

© University of Derby
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