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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(6), 529; doi:10.3390/ijerph13060529

Both Direct and Vicarious Experiences of Nature Affect Children’s Willingness to Conserve Biodiversity

1
Department of Urban Engineering, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8656, Japan
2
Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE, UK
3
Forestry and Forest Product Research Institute, Matsunosato 1, Tsukuba 305-8687, Japan
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Received: 27 March 2016 / Revised: 16 May 2016 / Accepted: 23 May 2016 / Published: 25 May 2016
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Abstract

Children are becoming less likely to have direct contact with nature. This ongoing loss of human interactions with nature, the extinction of experience, is viewed as one of the most fundamental obstacles to addressing global environmental challenges. However, the consequences for biodiversity conservation have been examined very little. Here, we conducted a questionnaire survey of elementary schoolchildren and investigated effects of the frequency of direct (participating in nature-based activities) and vicarious experiences of nature (reading books or watching TV programs about nature and talking about nature with parents or friends) on their affective attitudes (individuals’ emotional feelings) toward and willingness to conserve biodiversity. A total of 397 children participated in the surveys in Tokyo. Children’s affective attitudes and willingness to conserve biodiversity were positively associated with the frequency of both direct and vicarious experiences of nature. Path analysis showed that effects of direct and vicarious experiences on children’s willingness to conserve biodiversity were mediated by their affective attitudes. This study demonstrates that children who frequently experience nature are likely to develop greater emotional affinity to and support for protecting biodiversity. We suggest that children should be encouraged to experience nature and be provided with various types of these experiences. View Full-Text
Keywords: biodiversity conservation; biophilia; conservation psychology; ecosystem services; environmental education; global change; public health; human-nature interactions; pro-environmental behavior; well-being biodiversity conservation; biophilia; conservation psychology; ecosystem services; environmental education; global change; public health; human-nature interactions; pro-environmental behavior; well-being
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Soga, M.; Gaston, K.J.; Yamaura, Y.; Kurisu, K.; Hanaki, K. Both Direct and Vicarious Experiences of Nature Affect Children’s Willingness to Conserve Biodiversity. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13, 529.

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