The global climate crisis continues to endanger the well-being of natural environments and the people who depend on them. Building elements of environmental identity may better connect youth to the changes underway. However, little work has investigated how experiencing a climate change-impacted landscape may support environmental identity shifts. This study explores such shifts in the context of a wilderness science program for youth in a glacier-dominated landscape with visible signatures of long-term change. We use a qualitative approach to investigate environmental identity development, relying on Clayton’s (2003) environmental identity model as a theoretical construct. We find that two aspects of environmental identity shifted the most: (1) relatedness to the natural environment and (2) pro-environmental motivation. Emergent themes from the analysis reveal that these changes arise from better understanding how ecosystems are interconnected, understanding human impacts on the environment, and witnessing first-hand the scale and rate of glacier loss. Our results imply that educators can privilege these aspects to support environmental identity shifts. Ultimately, our findings highlight that personally witnessing a visibly climate-impacted landscape may be powerful in promoting better environmental stewardship in response to the climate crisis.
Joanna C. Young, Laura D. Carsten Conner, Erin Pettit. 2020. ‘You really see it’: environmental identity shifts through interacting with a climate change-impacted glacier landscape. International Journal of Science Education. 42:18: 3049-3070. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09500693.2020.1851065?scroll=top&needAccess=true. DOI: DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2020.1851065.