How Do We Keep Conservation Alive When Kids Have Less and Less Contact with Nature?
AdvisorSheridan, Thomas E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractAn unsettling trend is gaining momentum - many Americans may be losing their interest in the `natural world'. According to research undertaken by Patricia Zaradic, an Environmental Leadership Program fellow in Bryn Mawr, and Oliver Pergams of the University of Illinois at Chicago, "nature just isn't as entertaining as it used to be." Studies of Americans' recreational habits show a nearly 25 percent per capita decline in camping, fishing, hunting and visits to state and national parks since the mid-1980s (Gambino 2008). Like "climate change," some suggest that the downward trend in outdoor recreation by Americans is a manifestation of fiction rather than fact. But the trend is unmistakable: A smaller percentage of people in the United States and elsewhere are participating in outdoor recreation (Smith 2008). Pergams and Zaradic show a trend in human behavior that ultimately may be far more foreboding for the environment than declining tropical forest cover or increasing greenhouse gas emissions - widespread declines in nature-based recreation (Kareiva 2008). The question that has yet to be answered is to what degree this trend will have in influencing our society's future and in how we will value - or devalue - our natural environment. Will future generations that grow up and live in a world estranged from the natural environment want to protect it? America's 200-year conservation tradition may be at risk. Two dominant factors influenced the environmental philosophies of notable historic American conservationists. One was their direct and repeated interaction with the natural world beginning at a very early age; the other was an environment-focused family tradition. These same factors influenced the environmental ethos of today's conservationists, land managers and environmental educators. It is impossible to determine if these factors will be of equal significance one hundred years from now. However, we can predict with reasonable certainty based on the recent historic record, motivators identified by current environmentalists, and the results of independent surveys of adolescent subjects reported in this study that, at least for now and for the foreseeable future, if implemented in combination with others variables, these will favorably influence the conservation ethic of our youngest citizens.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Arid Lands Resource Sciences