Eco-Literacy and Emotional Connectedness to the Natural World


The world is facing the irreversible impacts of global warming. With many adversities of this crisis, such as extremities of weather, heatwaves, droughts, frequency of floods, and more, the world is slowly reaching its impasse. 

With the intensity of natural calamities and human activities that also contribute to global warming, people demand accountability and a course of action from big corporations, the government, and authorities to address the cause and effects of this crisis on the planet.

As a result of such events, people’s connectedness to nature drove them to navigate and search for ways for the planet to recuperate; eco-literacy has become the initial step to addressing climate concerns and achieving sustainable development in the world.

 In this article, you will be able to discern the importance of eco-literacy in your life and understand the connection between humans and nature and their role in achieving sustainable development goals.

What is eco-literacy?

Eco-literacy was first introduced by environmental educators David Orr and Fritjof Capra in the 1990s (McBride et al., 2013), where they defined eco-literacy as understanding the principles of ecosystem organization and applying them to create sustainable communities and societies.

Aside from the concept of awareness and knowledge, eco-literacy expands the scope of its meaning in a way that people also commit actions to make changes that will mutually benefit the people and the world. This concept also showcases people’s connectedness to nature and their enthusiasm to protect it. 

Author Daniel Christian Wahl (2017) also introduced why eco-literacy principles are a “good starting point” to explore nature and how you can start questioning yourself, such as why reconceptualize society in his book, Designing Regenerative Cultures. He pointed out that eco-literate people apply their understanding for them to design and organize communities to create “regenerative cultures.” 

Eco-literate people usually manifest the behavior and qualities they develop when they acquire knowledge from school, media, the community, and their upbringing. They can also be educators who can strengthen the critical thinking of learners, which is needed in the 21st century. It also offers ways to eradicate the possibility of intense emotions that affect the desire of people to take action or engage in managing ecological challenges (Bennett, 2012)

Developing eco-literacy

Eco-literacy can be learned with “emotional, social, and ecological intelligence.” Developing practices fosters engagement and provides a good foundation of eco-literacy that can be nurtured in children through adulthood. Below are some ways to build eco-literacy:

Encourage empathy toward living things

Teach people to connect with the natural world on a personal level by interacting with other living things and studying other cultures to understand the diversity in the human-nature relationship. 

Promote sustainable practices as a collective

Allow learning from each other and gain knowledge by understanding the importance of interconnectedness. This fosters respect for diversity, works for the common good, and establishes good rapport. 

Recognize the ordinary

Make small things noticeable and heard, as knowing the consequences of every action is important. This will help people think before acting rashly. This practice promotes a deeper understanding of the natural world and mindfulness behavior. 

Anticipate consequences

Some human activities contribute to the environmental crises everyone is experiencing today due to not considering the outcomes of such actions. One must build precautionary measures, systems thinking, and resiliency. 

Learn how nature sustains life

Make nature your teacher and learn that all living organisms are interconnected with one another despite the diversities and complexities. Learn that each organism plays a crucial role in the ecosystem and use the resources wisely.

Human and nature connection

Humans have always been a part of nature for millions of years — from the earliest civilizations until now in modern times. Human existence is deeply ingrained in the natural world despite the changes in living conditions and the continuous changes in periods. 

Listed below  are some practices that you can follow to get more connected to nature:

Watch nature documentaries

Seeing the actuality of how habitats, animals, and other organisms interact gives you knowledge of how they thrive in the wild (Arendt, F., Matthes J., 2014).

Go outside more and indulge in nature

Spend time visiting parks, gardens, beaches, or rivers. Doing so also eases mental health problems and improves overall mood (Mental Health Foundation, 2021)

Use all of your senses when you go outside

Take time to reflect on your natural surroundings by allowing your body to see, touch, taste, smell, feel, and hear something when you are outside in nature. 

Engage in activities that promote nature protection

Join in activities such as tree planting and clean-up drives to disseminate the importance and extend eco-literacy to others.

Practice mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness increases your exposure to cost-efficient nature and improves your understanding of yourself and your connection to the world (Nisbet et al., 2019)

Human connectedness with nature is an instinct in one’s biology. The physical and mental state is tied to the natural elements, which protect and provide basic conditions that benefit humanity in various ways. 

Also, human connection is vital to eco-literacy for achieving a sustainable future since the connection helps humans better understand the world and strategize ways to combat the planetary crisis.

In conclusion

Human connectedness to nature is a vital component of eco-literacy. Through this, humans can better understand the world and one’s role in protecting it. As humanity continues to flourish, people must also ensure that future generations have the opportunity to connect with the world that sustains life. Being aware of the matter is one step in combating environmental challenges.

If you would like to see more resources on pro-environmental behaviors, visit the Wellbeing Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other resources. Check out the Wellbeing Science Labs today.

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