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Teaching Environmental Literacy

Across Campus and Across the Curriculum

Edited by Heather L. Reynolds, Eduardo S. Brondizio, and Jennifer Meta Robinson. with Doug Karpa and Briana L. Gross

Publication Year: 2010

To prepare today's students to meet growing global environmental challenges, colleges and universities must make environmental literacy a core learning goal for all students, in all disciplines. But what should an environmentally literate citizen know? What teaching and learning strategies are most effective in helping students think critically about human-environment interactions and sustainability, and integrate what they have learned in diverse settings? Educators from the natural and social sciences and the humanities discuss the critical content, skills, and affective qualities essential to environmental literacy. This volume is an invaluable resource for developing integrated, campus-wide programs to prepare students to think critically about, and to work to create, a sustainable society.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book would not have been possible without the steadfast support of sponsoring editor Rebecca Tolen and Indiana University Press. We also thank Zsuzsa Gille and the two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful feedback on an early version of the manuscript...

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Introduction: The Rationale for Teaching Environmental Literacy in Higher Education

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pp. xiii-xviii

A view of earth from space makes it abundantly clear that the human presence is a subset of the larger earth environment. Humans depend crucially on natural ecosystem processes for basic life support services such as air purification, climate regulation, and waste decomposition, for the flow of goods such as food,pharmaceuticals, and fresh water, and for recreational enjoyment and aesthetic fulfillment (Daily et al. 1997, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2003). ...

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pp. 1-14

While most of this volume is dedicated to describing the disciplinary content essential for educating environmentally literate citizens and to recommending promising pedagogical approaches for teaching that content, we begin with the seminar itself from which this book emerged as a model for grassroots, multidisciplinary faculty inquiry (table part 1.1). ...


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pp. 15

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pp. 17-28

‘What should an environmentally literate person know?’’ Our group addressed this question from the perspective of environmental literacy as a basic competency for all graduates. We therefore sought to identify the core elements of environmental literacy (also referred to as ecological literacy, e.g. Orr 1990, 1994 and examine how these could be approached from a wide range of disciplines. ...

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1 At the Forest’s Edge: A Place-Based Approach to Teaching Ecosystem Services

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pp. 29-38

When human societies adopt an extractive relationship with nature, the native vegetation and natural contours of the land give way to satisfy the short-term needs of a developing society. As important as economic developments are in meeting the needs of a community, some of their costs are shifted elsewhere, either in space or in time. ...

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2 Population, Energy, and Sustainability

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pp. 39-49

In their comprehensive article on sustainability, Thomas Prugh and Erik Assadourian (2003) introduce the general the idea of development, followed by the more specific idea of sustainable development. ‘‘All people and cultures try to improve their lives and conditions: this process is often called development.’’ ...

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3 Population, Consumption, and Environment

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pp. 50-60

Understanding the dynamic interaction between population, consumption, and environment is fundamental to environmental literacy. Population size and distribution in space and time have very large impacts on the planet—and so does the consumption of natural resources. A population’s environmental impact, or‘‘ecological footprint,’’ is proportional to population ...

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4 Economics and Sustainability

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pp. 61-71

Economics is perceived by many as being about money, about numbers (like Gross Domestic Product, GDP), and about graphs (such as demand curves). Economists are often seen as being cold and calculating, supporting profits and markets—which are frequently identified as the main culprits in the destruction of the environment. But at its most basic, economics is about values. ...

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5 A Sense of Place

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pp. 72-76

In a speech delivered in 1952, Rachel Carson warned: ‘‘Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself, in his cities of steel and concrete, from the realities of earth and water and the growing seed. Intoxicated with a sense of his own power, he seems to be going farther and farther into more experiments for the destruction of himself and his world.’’...

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6 Environmental Justice and a Sense of Place

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pp. 77-84

Environmentally literate persons should understand that environmental harms and environmental regulation operate at two di

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7 Environmental Literacy and the Lifelong Cultivation of Wonder

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pp. 85-97

A newspaper cartoon that hangs outside my office door depicts two elderly men engaged in a fireside chat. One old curmudgeon remarks to the other, ‘‘I remember when there was no damn environment.’’ The humor of this observation plays upon a distinction between the environment as a modern concept—frequently, an issue or problem—and the environment in the quaint old sense of nature, the great big world out there. ...

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8 Teaching Environmental Communication Through Rhetorical Controversy

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pp. 98-108

At the turn of the century, Frank Luntz is one of the most famous communication professionals in the United States. With an undergraduate degree in history and political science from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in politics from Oxford University, he has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and George Washington University. ...


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pp. 109

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pp. 111-116

As outlined so far, environmental literacy encompasses a body of interdisciplinary knowledge including the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of human–environment interactions. We have suggested that this knowledge can be effectively organized around three broad themes: ...

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9 Effective Education for Environmental Literacy

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pp. 117-129

Because of the ever-increasing magnitude and importance of the consequences of human actions on global ecosystems, effective education for environmental literacy is intrinsically one of the most important areas of post-secondary education. It is also one of the more complex. ...

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10 Learning in Place: The Campus as Ecosystem

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pp. 130-134

How can we encourage people to think deeply about the environment we live in? To understand basic ecosystem services and energy flows through the world? To creatively face the problems that human civilization has placed on the biosphere? In the midst of global climate change and worldwide environmental degradation, it has become clear than humans must act. ...

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11 Environmental Literacy and Service-Learning: A Multi-Text Rendering

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pp. 135-141

Service-learning and environmental education are natural allies. Service-learning relies on the community as a text through which the lecture, reading, discussion,and reflective experience of the learner is writ large. Similarly, environmental educators have long held the premise that there is a text among the assigned readings for a course, ..

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12 Sense of Place and the Physical Senses in Outdoor Environmental Learning

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pp. 142-149

The expressions ‘‘five senses’’ and ‘‘sense of place’’ share a common noun and a comparable purpose in environmental studies. Both have to do with orientation, and both are about connecting people to proximate spaces and places. But sense of place, unlike physical, organ-mediated sensory perception, has normative dimensions (Feld and Basso 1997). ...

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13 A Natural Environment for Environmental Literacy

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pp. 150-157

In this chapter, I emphasize the importance of natural areas as a powerful context for teaching and learning environmental literacy. Natural environments can provide memorable, visceral learning experiences that enhance understanding and retention of content and foster affective learning goals such as the development of a sense of place.

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14 Teaching Outdoors

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pp. 158-164

Most of the environment is outdoors. It isn’t surprising, then, that many of our best opportunities for teaching about environmental issues are out there, too. Outdoor learning is more than just an excuse to escape the tyranny of four walls and little desks. The outdoors is both an obvious classroom for environmentally related topics and a uniquely rewarding one. ...


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pp. 165

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pp. 167-170

The complex environmental, social, and economic challenges faced by society require our ‘‘thinking collectively at disciplinary crossroads,’’ as Whitney Schlegel, Heather Reynolds, Victoria Getty, Diane Henshel, and James Reidhaar note (this volume). ...

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15 Environmental Literacy and the Curriculum: An Administrative Perspective

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pp. 171-177

When I was first invited to join an environmental literacy working group at my university, I feared that as soon as the experts began talking, I would be found out as the ringer in the group—I was not a true, deep, forest green, though perhaps alight shade of chartreuse. My area of research is not a scientific discipline but Hispanic literature. ...

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16 Faculty, Staff, and Student Partnerships for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability

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pp. 178-182

Many colleges and universities have some type of organization dedicated to environmental issues such as stewardship, sustainability, or the catchall focus of ‘‘greening.’’ Such campus greening or sustainability initiatives can face a catch-22. To be successful, greening initiatives require both grassroots support from the student body and top down support from high-level campus ...

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17 Food for Thought: A Multidisciplinary Faculty Grassroots Initiative for Sustainability and Service-Learning

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pp. 183-191

Thinking collectively at the crossroads of disciplines is difficult intellectual work that is essential if higher education is going to be able to turn out students who can address the interrelated environmental, social, and economic challenges of twenty-first-century society.

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Final Thoughts

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pp. 192-196

When compared to the array of civic and educational challenges in front of U.S. students today—immigration and economic crisis, evolutionism vs. creationism, marriage and family, religion and government—one may rightfully question whether an emphasis on environmental literacy is indeed appropriate for centers of higher education. ...


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pp. 197-200

List of Contributors

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pp. 201-204


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pp. 205-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004055
E-ISBN-10: 0253004055
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354099

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning