Young People and Ecology by Bijan Kimiagar

The negative effects of climate change, global economic restructuring, and increased urbanization impact young people disproportionally (Bartlett, 2008; Katz, 1994). It is ever more important to support young people’s meaningful participation in community life and sustainable development (Abebe & Kjørholt, 2012; Hart, 1997; Hayward, 2012; Hung, 2009; Jacobs, 2011; LaGreca & Bratspies, 2013; United Nations, 1992; Warwick et al, 2012; Weisenfeld et al., 2002), as well as opportunities to experience the social and psychological benefits of nature (Kahn & Kellert, 2002).

Young people need not travel the world to engage with complex global ecological systems. In fact, the most relevant pedagogical models of environmental education make use of everyday settings in young people’s lives, including urban settings (Hart & Perez, 1981; Krasny et al., 2013; Ward & Fyson, 1973). The charge for future research and practice, then, is to strengthen and develop new models for young people to engage with ecological issues—social, environmental, and economic—in ways that are responsive to a changing and uncertain world (Hart, Fisher & Kimiagar, in press).

The list of readings below is likely most relevant to social and environmental justice educators, child-centered community development practitioners, and global childhood researchers. Although the literature relevant to these international fields typically uses the term ‘young people’ to refer to persons 15 to 25 years of age, here the term is inclusive of children 14 years of age and younger. This broader age range reflects the need to include even the youngest citizens in environmental management.

The definition of ‘ecology’ is also multi-faceted. As a collection, the readings below define ecology in at least two ways. First, ecology is a process for gaining environmental competencies and engaging in environmental stewardship (Chawla, 2009; Chawla & Heft, 2002; Jensen & Schnack, 1997). Second, ecology is a theoretical framework for researching childhoods (Blankemeyer et al., 2009; Bronfenbrenner, 1974).

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