Capstone/Dissertation Title

Making connections: the significant life experiences of prominent environmental voices





Degree Name



The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the significant life experiences of six prominent environmental voices in today's culture: Brian McLaren, Fritjof Capra, David Quammen, Sylvia Earle, Louise Chawla, and Douglas Wood. The research began with this question: How do prominent environmental voices describe the significant life experiences and other influences that helped them to form their ecological identity? The goal of this study was to apply understanding from those significant experiences and influences to K-12 education so that students could be provided similar significant life experiences. When considering this study it was first necessary to explore and identify the roots to Western cultural views of nature, how one develops an ecological identity with a strong sense of ecological and environmental literacy, archetypal environmental voices, and environmental education history and efficacy. Data was collected with a single interview for each respondent. The data was compiled and coded and used to construct a narrative for each individual and then analyzed for commonalities were across the narratives. The most striking commonality identified was access to unstructured play time outside as elementary-aged children. Additionally, all of the individuals were greatly supported by parental figures, not as mentors in environmental issues, but simply by providing opportunity to further explore their passion for nature through access to libraries, books, magazines, museums, and natural places. Lastly, all of the individuals where highly literate, wrote extensively, and were greatly impacted by at least one significant author during their youth or early adulthood. At the conclusion of this study, is description of how continuation and recommended changes of current practices could further support providing students with an opportunity to experience similar significant life experiences to those of the six current prominent environmental voices and the four archetypal voices that are the subject of this study.

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