Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sociology






Ecology -- Study and teaching



Physical Description

1 online resource (153 p.)


It is a basic premise of this thesis that an environmental crisis exists in the world today and has been worsening at least since World War II. The crisis is evident in the population explosion, the deteriorating air and water quality, and the depletion of our natural resources. With the feeling that all persons must become aware, concerned, and involved with the environmental crisis if the trend is to be reversed, this study is concerned with one segment of the population – high school students.

Sociologists, and especially human ecologists, have not been concerned professionally with the environmental crisis, but instead with spatial distributions of phenomena in cities. They have developed no theory that has been pertinent to helping mankind resolve his environmental problems, although potentially the field of human ecology could do so. Because of the lack of such needed theory, suggestions made to alleviate the crisis have been disorganized: population control, political action, economic action, and education. Education, with the intent to generate data to guide curriculum development, is the focus of this study.

This exploratory study investigated the awareness, concern, and involvement of high school students with the environmental crisis. Two groups of students were interviewed: those who had taken an ecology course (informants), and those who had not (random). A total of 98 students and 5 teachers were interviewed at two Portland high schools, Reynolds and Aloha, in the spring of 1971.

The interviews consisted of three parts: a ranking of the importance of ecological problems by the students using ecological pictures, followed by a discussion of the reasons for the order; an interview using direct questions; and a questionnaire asking background information. All interviews were tape recorded. The data was coded, and statistically analyzed by a computer.

The data indicate that the ecology courses did influence the informants. The Reynolds informants tended to view attitude change as the most important task to alleviate ecological problems, whereas the Aloha informants saw the major task as reducing population growth. Each of these views reflected the major emphasis of the respective courses. The courses, each with different activities also influence the ecological involvement of the informants in different ways.

In background characteristics the informants tended to come from smaller families, more often had no religious preference, camped more, and spent more time in wilderness areas than the random students. The informants were similar to the random students in the following ways: educational backgrounds and occupations of their parents, length of time lived in their present home, enjoyment of outdoor leisure activities, and extent of travels.

There is a difference in the awareness, concern, and involvement of the informants as compared to the random students. Both groups see an ecological crisis in the world and in the Pacific Northwest, and both are concerned about man’s chances of survival on earth, but they differ in the reasons they give and the problems they see. Informants were also more actively involved in ecological activities in school and outside of school.


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