Like most scientists I know, I was drawn into science by the allure of nature. I became bonded to the natural world during World War II, when Japanese Canadians were incarcerated in camps in the Rocky Mountains, in a spectacular area that is now Valhalla Provincial Park. There I fished, gathered mushrooms and flowers for my mother, and encountered without fear wolves, bears, and elk.
Page 56 of David Suzuki’s “The Legacy”
Yup. I had lots of unstructured play in “natural settings” before the age of 11 (school trips don’t count). That’s one of the things that many conservation/environmental justice activists – regardless of class, colour, educational background -share. It’s called “significant life experiences,” and you can see a summary here..
“Significant Life Experiences Revisited: a review of research on sources of environmental sensitivity”
Louise Chawla Environmental Education Research Vol 4, 4, 1998
Beginning with the study of significant life experiences initiated by Tanner, this article reviews a growing body of related research in the form of surveys, interviews, and questionnaires that explore people’s accounts of the sources of their environmental interest, concern, and action. The questions, methods, and results of studies in this field are closely compared. In conclusion, the article notes that the experiences that people describe can be understood as exchanges between the ‘outer environment’ of the physical and social world and the ‘inner environment’ of people’s own interests, aptitudes, and temperament, and that more attention needs to be paid to the influence of this ‘inner environment’ of individual differences.
So, you can be an effective “eco-activist” without these things, and you can have that unstructured play thing going on and still be a planet-trashing douche. It’s not an either/or, or a causational arrow. But it’s one of the things that has given generations of dissidents a motive, a base. Does this still happen? Dunno…
Gentle reader(s) – did you have “SLEs” in natural settings before age 11? If so, do you think it mattered towards your thoughts and deeds around environmental issues? Did you NOT have those, but still are eco-active? If so, what do you think was the cause of you getting with the Cause? All other comments on this topic welcome. Further ponderings on “nature deficit disorder” (I shit you not) and green confucianism to follow…