A fair amount of literature exists in support of environmental education. The typical types of articles I have found have generally focused on the fact that people, youth especially, have a lot to gain from environmental education. Many studies aim to answer the question “What should we be teaching people in order for them to see the importance of being environmentally responsible?” or “What is the most effective way to convey this information? Outdoors? With books? With charts?” Perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of education is not what we teach and should teach students, but rather how we should empower them to act and put their education to practical use.
The article “Factors in Helping Educate About Energy Conservation” centers around this issue. Their specific research question is “What are the attitudes and motivations that students have toward energy use and conservation?” The study collected results at three different times: 1995, 2002 and 2003. Researchers wanted to analyze motivation and attitudes toward energy conservation between the three data collection times and determine any broad changes between the three. Participants took surveys which were analyzed by researches using the Likert Scale (meaning the scale ranged from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’), or participated in simple short-answer interviews which asked the same questions. Factor analysis and behavior analysis were then used to quantify the results.
Some of the main takeaways were the popular attitudes that: nature is important, yet we still need to uphold a functioning society and that many people feel a lack of empowerment to create solutions.
Unfortunately, the surveys and interviews concluded that having a positive environmental attitude does not always translate into action, in all three study years. The general consensus was that people often can only be environmentally conscious to a degree before having to disconnect themselves from modern society. This leaves us with a new question: how do we train our next and current generations of scientists to feel empowered enough to create new solutions for our energy crisis.