The Handbook of Environmental Education

By Joy Palmer; Philip Neal | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1

Concern for the environment

A reflection on the conjunction of the two words ‘environment’ and ‘education’ raises the key questions of why, when and for what purpose they have been linked. Presumably answers to these questions range from the feelings and concerns of individuals through to events of international and global significance. In the belief that no educational programme of work in this area can be successful without individual commitment and personal concern, we begin with a glimpse at the preliminary findings of a research study in progress at the University of Durham (Palmer 1992) on the development of personal concern for the environment.1 The first phase of this research is an investigation into formative life experiences of environmental educators who presumably are persons already environmentally aware. They are not to be classed as the general public in this context, with whom it is likely that any increase in environmental concern has been triggered in the main by TV programmes and international disasters such as Bhopal and Chernobyl. The research is based on the assumption that if the ultimate aim of environmental education is to sustain our planet and its resources for future generations, then a related aim must be to provide an education which encourages people to strive towards that goal. Presumably, if environmental education is about producing well informed and environmentally active adults, then those responsible for it should have some idea of the kinds of learning experiences which help to influence the development of environmental care and concern.

The research technique involves retrospective analysis of the experiences of environmental educators who currently demonstrate their personal care and concern for the world in their everyday lives. Participants in the study were invited to supply details of their approximate age, gender and of their present activities which demonstrate an informed and responsible approach to environmental matters (e.g. practical conservation, recycling, belonging to organizations active in environmental affairs, enjoyment of the outdoors, living a ‘green’ lifestyle and reading books and journals about environmental issues). The purpose of seeking


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The Handbook of Environmental Education


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