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Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2010

Many disciplines, one message: Environmental literacy matters

Jan. 11, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new book by a wide range of Indiana University Bloomington scholars explains how universities and colleges can improve environmental literacy among their graduates.

Teaching Environmental Literacy cover

Courtesy of IU Press

Print-Quality Photo

Teaching Environmental Literacy: Across Campus and Across the Curriculum (IU Press, $21.95) includes chapters by 27 Bloomington scientists, artists, and historians, as well as experts in law, politics, economics, and language, among others. In bringing this breadth of scholarly fields to bear on students' environmental literacy, the authors emphasize that environmental issues are profoundly entwined with all aspects of society and should not be limited to a few science or science policy classrooms on campuses.

The scholars assert that as environmental issues become more apparent and pressing, educators have an obligation to provide students with "an understanding of the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of human-environment interactions," preparing them to make wise decisions, both in their immediate lives and in their voting careers.

Celebrated American author and Professor of English Scott Russell Sanders argues that for students to be motivated in the practice of conservation, they must feel "A Sense of Place," or sense of belonging to the land and the community of life. School of Public and Environmental Affairs conservation biologist Vicky Meretsky discusses her own experiences "Teaching Outdoors," with a focus on "working landscapes" shaped by human activity. Lisa Sideris, associate professor of religious studies and that department's Director of Undergraduate Studies, draws partly on her recent Rachel Carlson scholarship to connect "Environmental Literacy and the Lifelong Cultivation of Wonder."

Though the textbook is a product of IU Bloomington, it is aimed at collegiate educators everywhere.It was edited by Heather Reynolds (Biology), Eduardo Brondizio (Anthropology), and Jennifer Meta Robinson (Communication and Culture), with Doug Karpa (Instructional Development) and Briana Gross (Biology). All five also contributed sections to the work, including the introduction.

"This volume… shares the experiences from a grass-roots faculty conversation about teaching environmental literacy and sustainability at Indiana University that coalesced into a multi-year conversation that in turn informed a later, campus-wide sustainability initiative…" they write. "The knowledge-sharing practices developed in that context provide an integrative, inquiry-based model that is transferable to other college and university contexts."

Also contributing chapters and overviews to Teaching Environmental Literacy are Emilio Moran (Anthropology), Eric Baack, Keith Clay, Craig Nelson, and Keith Vogelsang, (Biology), Phaedra Pezzullo (Communication and Culture), Christine Glaser (GreenFire Consulting Group LLC), James Reidhaar (School of Fine Arts), Victoria Getty (School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation), James Capshew (History and Philosophy of Science), Whitney Schlegel (Human Biology Program), John Applegate (School of Law), Andrew Libby, Claire King, and Nicole Schonemann (Office of Service-Learning), Bennet Brabson (Physics), Matt Auer and Diane Henshel (School of Public and Environmental Affairs), and Catherine Larson (Spanish and Portuguese).

For more information about Teaching Environmental Literacy: Across Campus and Across the Curriculum , including purchasing information, please visit IU Press on the Web at:

To speak with editors Reynolds, Brondizio, or Robinson, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or