The Promotion of Environmental Literacy under an Attention Economy Perspective

Armin Ibitz


While information and knowledge is growing exponentially, our day continues to have 24 hours. As a consequence, we live under constant shortage of attention. We do not read anymore - we skim; information that used to be relevant for a day, is now relevant for a few hours, since we need to pay attention to the new information. And "[…] in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something" (Simon, 1971). Internet and new media play such a dominant role in modern life that other aspects of life are neglected. And among the most neglected areas we find the interaction with nature and wildlife. While children spend only half as much time outdoors than their peers did two decades ago, the consumption of entertainment media among kids (aged 8-18) exceeds 7 hours per day. Childhood has moved indoors, with all its consequences, such as declining creativity, concentration deficiencies, underdeveloped social skills, and alienation from nature. However, in order to be able to tackle ecological challenges, we are in strong demand of environmentally literate graduates.

Promoting environmental literacy aims at strengthening the capacity to recognize and understand the relative health of environmental systems and set proper measures to maintain and/or restore the physical condition of those systems. However, the formation of an environmentally literate person requires a broad knowledge and ecological understanding in order to result in an intrinsically motivated green decision making. Foreign language teaching may not only play a decisive role by raising environmental awareness but also by developing skills and competences, creating positive emotions and shaping attitudes that may lead to changes in behavior and trigger action in real life.

        This paper seeks to contribute in the ongoing discussion about the promotion of environmental literacy among the generation "digital-born". Part one starts with a discussion of the theoretical concept of environmental literacy. What does it mean to be environmentally literate? Particularly in times of infobesity and digitalization of life. The paper then establishes links between environmental literacy and learning, and discusses how information overload interferes with learning processes. Therefore, the study applies an attention economy perspective.



attention economy; environmental literacy; language learning; environmental education; information overflow

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