Nature in Children’s Literature: Landscapes and Beings – Fostering Ecocitizens (NaChiLit)
NaChiLit examines the relationship between humans and nature, framed in relation to the current ecological crisis. Inheriting this crisis, children and young adults must, as they grow, help solve it. Their environmental awareness will be crucial to this task.
Bergthaller et al. (2014: 262) pinpoint the fact that “the ecological crisis is not only a crisis of the physical environment but also a crisis of the cultural and social environment”. The main contribution to the climate research provided by the humanities is the examination of how our conception and interpretation of the concepts of nature and climate frame the political and administrative actions in relation to climate changes (Sørensen & Fugl Eskjær 2014: 16).
It is reasonable to claim that these conceptions and interpretations of nature and climate commence in early childhood and that various aesthetic impressions, such as those provided through children’s and YA literature, influence formative processes. Along such lines, Massey and Bradford (2011) argue that what they call “children’s environmental texts” can socialize young people into becoming ecocitizens and hence “responsible and empathetic adults of tomorrow” (109).
The role of literature is decisive because it may creatively encourage us to move from a restricted “anthropocentric” to a more “biocentric” way of thinking (Mortensen 2013: 285). In NaChiLit, the presentation of nature in literature is compared to the presentation of nature in educational practices. Thus, through close readings, field studies and a continuously refined analytical tool (the NaChiLit-matrix) the NaChiLit project examines representations and figures of thought fostering the ecocitizens of tomorrow.