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Views on Society on Environmental Issues

Source: Chapter 4:Environmental Issues from Monograph vol.53, " Relationship with Society -the Social Awareness of High School Students" edited by Educational Research Center, Benesse Corporation, May 1, 1998 (Supervising Editor: Dr. Masashi Fukaya, Professor, Tokyo Seitoku Junior College)


(1) Research Objective of the Survey "Environmental Issues of High School Students"

High school students nowadays seem more interested in their daily life and in familiar issues than the future. Do they think about society, different cultures, and issues of global environment? Is there a new type of social perception or interest in volunteer activities? The purpose of this research is to clarify their social perceptions and valuation of society.

(2) Survey Method

This survey covers 1,699 students of 6 high schools in 5 prefectures (5 public schools and 1 private school). By gender, 903 are male and 792 are female, 4 are unknown. By grade, 891 students are seventh graders, 649 are eighth graders, 155 are ninth graders, and 4 are unknown. The survey was conducted in October and November 1997.


(1) Interest in Environmental Issues

In general, there is much interest in environmental issues among high school students. About 50% of the students are aware of the importance of the environment and preservation of nature (Table 1). There is almost no difference by gender (Table 2). Students of School A in Tokyo, where most students advance to college or university, are more interested in environmental protection than students of other schools (Table 3).

Two out of every 3 students enjoy nature-watching alone; 40% own pets (Table 4); 50% of the female students decorate their rooms with flowers; and 40% of the female students grow flowers and plants at home (Table 5).

(2) Nature Experience

Very few students have direct experience with nature. 37.0% have been to orienteering; 26.6% have planted and harvested rice; 24.4% have made a nature observation or kept daily journals. Many of these activities were conducted as school events. As a matter of course, students in rural areas have more experience with nature than those in metropolitan areas (Table 6).

(3) Valuation of the Community

The students express a serious concern for the declining living environment in their hometown and the decrease in public perception. 82.3% are concerned about the poor management of empty cans and waste disposal; 79.9% about the increasing amount of auto exhaust; 70.8% about less space for playgrounds; 70.3% about the residential development of vacant land. Students in metropolitan areas have a higher sense of crisis than those in rural areas (Table 7).

(4) Seeking an Environmentally-Friendly Lifestyle

69.6% of the students separate garbage; 58.6% turn out the light when not in use; 52.5% prefer Japanese or Chinese tea to soft drinks; 50.2% use recycled paper. Male students often do not pay much attention to the preservation of environment. On the other hand, female students are more sensitive to environmental protection and are nature-friendly (Table 8, Table 9).

(5) Economic Development versus Environmental Protection

50% of the students call for the preservation of nature and the environment; 10% place a higher priority on economic development and 40% are in the middle (Table 10, Table 11). Those who are more eager to protect the environment, experience nature more often and their lifestyle is more environmentally-friendly (Table 12). They are also seriously worried about the future of the earth. Meanwhile those who are optimistic about the global environment in the future tend to think about economic development rather than environmental protection (Table 13, Table 14). They are indifferent to behavior that can lead to the destruction of nature. It is important to value actual experience with nature and cultivate sensitivity that will bring these students closer to nature.

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