Humans are a major driver of change across most, if not all, ecosystems on Earth. Global climates are changing, and, in order to address these changes, we will need to engage in effective policy formulation. While some results can be achieved through technological fixes, others will require behavioral changes, particularly in how urbanizing populations interact with and are impacted by their landscapes.
Studies to date have focused on quantifying the level of environmental literacy among both adults and children. There has also been an effort to create school curricula that promote higher levels of environmental literacy and environmentally responsible behavior (ERB) among children. Our work endeavored to combine these bodies of work, and to quantify potential areas for intervention in adults which would increase ERB.
Our work has focused on quantifying ways to increase ERB in adults based on landscape. To do so, we surveyed ~300 adults in a variety of landscapes encompassing a range of populations culturally and socio-economically. The resulting responses were analyzed in tandem with remote sensing and landscape data covering the region including land cover and measures of connectivity.
Our analysis of the surveys found that ERB had certain primary drivers among respondents, in particular the number and frequency of activities they engaged in while outside and utilization of local green spaces.
We then used spatial data to link these particular behaviors to where respondents lived, and analyzed for connectivity and land cover. We found that respondents living in within the study area had a great disparity in their use of public green spaces. Those living in more forested areas took part in the same number of different recreational activities over the course of a year as those in lower forested areas. Respondents expressed similar levels of enjoyment of the outdoors across municipalities, however those in forested areas tended to actually use these spaces more frequently. These individuals in forested areas, however took part in those activities more ~ 35% frequently (p< 0.05).
Increased frequency of outdoor activities appears to be a primary driver to higher overall ERB, thus ERB may be related to forested area at the municipality level. Our analyses also indicate that these behaviors are independent of pedestrian connectivity. This indicates that preserving forested areas may be an avenue for contributing to adult ERB.