As humanity is challenged to counteract the countless environmental problems the world faces, the question of how to move people to action remains paramount. Education about ecological stewardship has long focused on helping people understand these issues using facts and figures, appealing to the rational mind. More recently, researchers have begun to look more closely at how helping people develop emotional connections to the natural world may have a greater impact on their willingness to act. One way to cultivate emotional connections is through aesthetic sensory experiences in nature. This article argues that cultivating ecological responsibility in the Great Plains begins with developing landscape literacy through aesthetic awareness of place. Three main points are discussed in support of this argument: (1) the physical beauty of the Great Plains is more austere than other bioregions, and one must learn to see its beauty; (2) aesthetic awareness is not only about visual experience and seeing beauty but involves all five senses; and (3) although intellectual understanding of local ecology is important for cultivating responsible stewardship, the desire to care about such responsibility requires an emotional connection, which is developed through aesthetic experiences with such places.


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pp. 25-32
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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