Stewards of the earth? : a study of teenagers' pro-environmental attitudes and lifestyles in Devon, UK and Malaga, Spain
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Individual responses to sustainability are recognised as fundamental to progressing the sustainable development agenda. In order to raise awareness and support for sustainability, concerted programmes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) have been promoted and ESD is now a core element of educational curricula in many countries, particularly in the developed world. One group of particular interest to educators and policy makers is teenagers. Their engagement with sustainability issues, both in rhetorical and participatory terms, is considered essential to both the short and long term infusion of sustainability into public consciousness. However, despite continuing endeavours to involve teenagers in the sustainability agenda, many remain apathetic despite increases in environmental awareness and literacy throughout society. This suggests there is considerable scope for more extensive analysis of the environmental attitudes and behaviour of teenagers beyond pedagogic influences. In light of this, the overall aim of the study is to explore the ways in which ESD interacts with other social influences such as families, peer groups and media, in forming young people's environmental awareness and participation in proenvironmentalb ehaviour.T eenagersw ho participatedi n the study were secondary and Further Education (FE) students from two European Union (EU) locations, Devon in the United Kingdom (UK) and Malaga in Andalusia, Spain. A cross-national approach was chosen in order to reveal salient factors influencing teenagers' relationship with sustainability in different social contexts. A range of research methods were employed including questionnaire surveys, interviews and focus groups. The findings indicate that, despite the existence of similar ESD policy commitments and conceptualu nderstandingso f sustainabilityi n the two cases tudies,s ubtle differencesi n local social processesh ad significant impactso n teenagers' participation in pro-environmental behaviours. However, common to both locations there was a need for ESD to be infused as part of a whole schools ethos and for other social contexts, particularly families, to be recognised more fully as influences on teenagers' environmental development. Furthermore, participation in proenvironmental behaviour was strongly influenced by socio-spatial location and teenagers' experienced difficulties transferring learned skills between school, home and peer sites. In many cases this lack of integration resulted in confused understandingsa nd inconsistentlyh eld values for behaviouri n different settings. From these conclusions, some practical options for greater co-ordination of sustainability strategies within schools and between schools and other social settings are suggested.
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