Influence of wilderness experience on the adoption of environmentally responsible behaviour

De Wet, Benita (2007-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


Conventional environmental education programmes appear to have limitations in precipitating the radical change needed to solve major environmental problems. In this study the potential of wilderness experience (WE) as a catalyst for developing ecoliteracy and consequent adoption of environmentally responsible behaviour (ERB), are discussed. Attitudinal changes and adoption of ERB by adult participants, following a weekend WE conducted in the Pilanesberg National Park, located in the North-West Province of South Africa, were probed through group and individual interviews over a period of time. Results indicate that WE may be a significant catalyst in developing ecoliteracy, while effects on adoption of ERB are diluted by several factors – both personal and structural (societal). The role of the wilderness guide in facilitating effective re-connection with nature, and stimulating the development and growth of ecoliteracy in individual participants in the WE, is highlighted. It is suggested that WE provides a substantive addition to the mechanisms available for experiential environmental education programmes, in that it accesses different ways of learning that focus on the emotional and spiritual elements of the human connection to nature.

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