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A sense of wonder: The missing ingredient to a long-term value for nature?

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The natural world is essential to human survival providing food, filtering water, and cleansing the air. However, human activities this past century have compromised the capacity for natural ecosystems to carry out these essential functions on which we rely. The combined impact of urbanisation, land clearing, mining, species extinction, pollution, and human-induced climate change has transformed the Earth’s geology and ecosystems to such a degree that scientists have proposed a new geological age to mark this era of human influence—The Anthropocene.

In response, individuals, organisations, and governments globally are devising interventions to reduce or reverse the negative impact of human activities. Several of these interventions are focused on children—the next generation of environmental stewards who will eventually be responsible for curbing human impacts to preserve the natural world. Instilling a genuine value for the natural world during childhood has been shown to motivate environmental stewardship behaviour during adulthood.

But, what types of childhood experiences instil a lifelong value for nature and promote stewardship behaviour later in life? This question has been explored extensively by environmental psychologists and educators. Their research has found that children who experience a sense of wonder through direct contact with nature are more likely to develop a life-long respect and value for the existence of natural areas, the habitats they contain and the species they support. MORE

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