Forestry Commission logo

36. "Where did you go?" "The Forest". "What did you see?" "Nothing".

DescriptionSchneekloth considers that the tendency to value vegetation as insignificant background, as "nothing", is rooted in our cultural background. She suggests that in some forms of discourse, in drawing and literature for example, there are different systems of placing value. The article discusses the roots of attitudes to vegetation and the implications for children's perceptions and experience.

The article explores the author's belief that vegetation has been consigned to the background in our perception of the environment. She explores with reference to literature and philosophy attitudes to vegetation.

She uses information, drawn from her own short study of drawings by adults, to explore human perception of vegetation. Two groups of people (15 architecture students; and 83 academics in environmental education who were attending a conference) were asked to draw pictures of an experience, place or event that was important in forming their relationship with nature, and then talk about them.

Reference is also made to studies of children's drawings and observations of play to draw inferences on what children perceive and what they are being taught both implicitly and explicitly.

ResultsSchneekloth identified a difference in content between the drawings and narratives in her study. She concluded that "when people drew their experience, they located human beings as part of the picture; when they talked about place/event, the human action was central. (p.16)." "Vegetation is 'something' as is revealed in the discourse of drawing; it is given form" (p15), she concludes.
PublishedChildren's Environments Quarterly 6 (1)
AuthorsSchneekloth, L.H.
PublisherChildren's Environments Research Group, City University of New York
Keywordsenvironmental perception; environmental education; anthropocentrism.

This is a thought provoking article raising issues concerning the way we perceive the environment and the in the way we express those experiences of the environment in different media. Schneekloth considers that as a society we have become anthropocentric, viewing vegetation as an 'undifferentiated utilitarian resource' and disassociating experience and knowledge. In her opinion adults "see little" and the dominant message being given to children is that "vegetation is nothing". She suggests that we should discover more about the way children perceive the environment and understand what they are being taught both explicitly and implicitly.

Although this article is not of direct application to empirical research it does indicate the need for more information about variations in environmental perception with age; the differences in the ways we express environmental evaluations; and our response to different elements within the natural environment.

Some work has been done in measuring aesthetic response to vegetation. Hull and Harvey (1989) noted that pleasure heightens as tree density increases. Thayer, and Atwood (1978) also linked pleasure to planting. Balling (1982) concluded that people showed preference for grassland and groves of closely planted trees because these related to the savannah origins of early man.

The relation of age to environmental preference is also discussed in the review of Lyons (1983).

Other references

Balling, J.D. and Falk, J.H.(1982). Development of Visual Preference for Natural Environments, Environment and Behaviour 14 (1) :5-28

Hull, R. B. and Harvey, A. (1989), Explaining the Emotion People Experience in Suburban Parks. Environment and Behaviour, 21, (3): 323-345

Lyons, E. (1983) Demographic Correlates of Landscape Preference, Environment and Behavior 15 (4) :487-511

Thayer, R.L. and Atwood, B.G. (1978). Plants, complexity and pleasure in urban and suburban environments, Environmental Psychology and Non Verbal behaviour, 3: 67-76.