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Ecological Literacy

Knowledge and understanding about how the ecological systems of the Earth support life form the foundation for ecological literacy, which, in turn, is of critical importance for sustainability. There is widespread concern that levels of ecological literacy within many contemporary human societies are too low to enable effective decision-making about how to live sustainably. This research presents explores ecological literacy assessment of adults through surveys of their knowledge and attitudes. Our assessments test for knowledge and understanding of ecological systems and interconnections with human society. Analyses revealed significant relationships between assessment scores and a range of value-based and behavioral characteristics. Such characteristics included the value placed on nature, time spent outdoors and in nature, involvement in nature-based activities, and perceived sources of ecological knowledge and understanding. Higher average scores were correlated with higher values accorded to involvement in outdoor activities, importance of the outdoors to enjoyment of life, importance of nature in the household, volunteer environmental activity and growing food. Higher scores were also correlated with higher education, research activities, outdoor lifestyles, place-based experiences, volunteer activities, mentors and colleagues, and books and magazines. Lower scores were achieved by those who considered media, natural disasters and environmental marketing to be major contributors to their ecological knowledge. These findings contribute to a broader study of the relationships between ecological literacy and a range of both socio-demographic and psychographic characteristics. They invite serious consideration from any society that values the participation of an informed population with the capacity to make sustainable environmental decisions.