Human-environment system knowledge: A correlate of pro-environmental behavior

Pablo Díaz-Siefer, Alexander Neaman, Eduardo Salgado, Juan L. Celis-Diez, Siegmar Otto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


An effective program of environmental education requires the identification of the knowledge that must be imparted. This paper compares the effects of human-environment system knowledge (i.e., knowledge related to environmental problems caused by humans) and environmental action knowledge (i.e., knowledge of possible courses of action to reduce human impact on the environment) on pro-environmental behavior. Environmental knowledge and pro-environmental behavior of 950 Chilean adults were assessed with a survey. Both types of knowledge were related to pro-environmental behavior (r = 0.25 and r = 0.22, respectively, p < 0.001). These results seem to contradict previous studies that found that system knowledge is not directly related to pro-environmental behavior. However, existing scales of environmental system knowledge are behavioral-distant due to their greater number of general geography knowledge items. In contrast, our human-environmental system knowledge scale focuses on understanding global environmental problems and, therefore, can be expected to relate more closely to pro-environmental behavior. To promote pro-environmental behavior, we suggest teaching more human-environment system knowledge and environmental action knowledge. Since different forms of environmental knowledge must work together in a convergent manner in order to foster pro-environmental behavior, the present study represents an important contribution by showing that greater human-environment system knowledge is correlated with pro-environmental behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15510-15526
Number of pages17
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2015


  • Action knowledge
  • Ecological behavior
  • Effectiveness knowledge
  • Environmental education
  • Geography knowledge
  • Pro-environmental behavior


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