Ecological literacy in South Australia

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RESEARCH AREA
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This week’s featured research article has just been published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology and examines the characteristics associated with high and low levels of ecological literacy in South Australia. The integrity of the relationship between humanity and nature is fundamental to the health and survival of our species. Humans have always required knowledge and understanding of the planet’s life-supporting systems. Such knowledge and understanding form the basis of ecological literacy which is fundamental to the sustainability of human settlements. The researchers undertook an assessment of South Australian adults, showing positive correlations between ecological literacy and a number of socio-demographic and psychographic factors. An analysis of the most and least eco-literate individuals within a sample of over 1000 adults revealed significant distinguishing characteristics. The findings indicate that high ecological literacy is strongly correlated with gender, age, education (and in particular, science-based education), employment status, engagement with nature both as children and adults, growing food, outdoor experiences and lifestyles, growing up in small communities and relational learning. In contrast, low ecological literacy is associated with a different set of socio-demographic and psychographic characteristics such as lower levels of education, growing up in large urban communities, and spending little time outdoors or in natural settings. In addition, perceptions about the major contributors to ecological knowledge and understanding were markedly different within the two groups. The researchers conclude that these patterns of difference between those with high and low ecological literacy among South Australian adults invite serious consideration for a society that aspires to cultivate an informed citizenry with capacity for making effective environmental decisions. The paper can be downloaded here (or email jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).