Scholars of environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD) have been among the environmental leaders calling for individuals to become increasingly engaged in political action aimed at addressing environmental and sustainability issues. Few, however, have studied how educational experiences might foster greater environmental political engagement. Fortunately, there is a rich body of research in political science, psychology, and education that provides insights that EE and ESD scholars and educators can build on. Studies in these domains suggest, for example, that political efficacy (the belief that individuals’ actions can influence political processes) and political interest (individuals’ willingness to pay attention to politics) are strong predictors of political participation. Moreover, these studies have shown that educators can strengthen individuals’ political efficacy and interest through activities such as open-ended discussions of political issues, opportunities to identify with politically oriented groups, and involvement in actual and simulated democratic decision-making processes. This conceptual paper: (1) reviews the broad support for preparing individuals for environmental political participation through education, (2) synthesizes research on the factors that influence political participation, (3) provides a theoretical framework for researchers and educators interested in fostering environmental political participation, and (4) offers recommendations for descriptive, measurement, and educational studies that can provide educators with further guidance on how to foster individuals’ environmental political participation.
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