How do Nigerian teenagers perceive and relate with their environment? What is the context of their environmental knowledge? Professors Peter H. Kahn and Stephen R. Kellert theorize in Children and Nature (2002) that environmental experiences of childhood influence the presence or absence of an ‘impetus for environmental activism’ in adulthood. The biophilia hypothesis, extensively researched in many developed countries, proposes that biophilia is a biological tendency that requires nurturing to be functionally manifest. The purpose of my research is to investigate the theory of biophilia and development of environmental stewardship in teenagers residing in Nigeria’s Cross River state, which occupies a relevant space in the country’s environmental discourse. Located in Southwestern Nigeria, and the infamous oil rich Niger Delta region, it is home to a remnant patch of richly bio-diverse tropical rainforest and a pilot location for Nigeria’s REDD+ program. The state has remained peaceful amidst unrest in the region and draws a significant number of Nigeria’s eco-tourists.
Using questionnaires and 25 semi-structured focus groups I collected qualitative and quantitative data reflecting the environmental knowledge, attitudes and practices of 96 students in JS3 and SS2 (grades 9 & 12). Students were sampled from two schools: one in Calabar, the capital city and the other in Akamkpa local government area approximately 5 miles from the Cross River State National park. Analysis of the student’s survey responses and perceptions from at times passionate discussions will provide an interesting picture of their environmental knowledge and values regarding a range of topics including pollution, litter, farms, gardens, animals and the National Park.