Expressions of ecological identity across the life span of eight environmental exemplars

Jennifer Seydel (2008)

While there is a substantial body of literature looking at various aspects of ecological identity and factors that influence it, there has been less work done on how an individual's ecological identity changes with time. Much of that work is limited to short segments of the life span (e.g. the impact of wilderness experiences). This dissertation attempts to address this perceived gap by investigating how the ecological identity of eight environmental exemplars changed during the course of his or her life. What has emerged from this qualitative grounded theory investigation of the lives and works of Charles Darwin, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Hazel Wolf, Rachel Carson, James Lovelock and E.O. Wilson are five sequential expressions of ecological identity. These 'stages' serve as a framework to explain ecological identity as a developmental process, both fluid and continuous, rather than at) end product. The development of an ecological identity is traced, through the development of five cognitive foundations and their alignment with five emotional foundations that reflect a progression from a sensory interaction and a kinship bond with nature into a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all aspects of the planet. The findings reveal the evolution of an ecological identity and suggest the importance of looking beyond content knowledge in the nurturing of ecological attitudes, values, and lifestyles.