The messy middle: An exploratory study of adolescent environmentalists in North Carolina

Samantha Friedman, Scott Morrison, Laura Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Today’s adolescents have grown up with technology as a main element in their lives and are particularly susceptible to experiencing mental health challenges, so-called nature-deficit disorder, and eco-anxiety around the climate crisis. This unique developmental context may necessitate a reconceptualising of adolescents’ relationships with the environment including their connection to nature. We identified nine adolescents from North Carolina who had high levels of connection to nature and participated in environmental education programs. Using reflexive thematic analysis of data gathered through semi-structured interviews, we developed three themes to reflect how this group of US-based adolescents experience their connection to nature: optimism and limitations related to individual actions; environmentalism as more than a phase; and complex relationships (with nature, environmentalism, and technology). This exploratory study has prompted us to reflect upon how traditional conceptualisations of core concepts in the field of environmental education may require more nuance in the 21st century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Early online date15 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 May 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • connection to nature
  • adolescent identity
  • environmental education
  • environmentalism
  • climate action


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