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EXPLORING THE CONNECTION WITH NATURE  Giants Causeway with six silhouetted people - in different locations - climbing over rocks

19 January 2021

Dr Karen Kerr from Queen’s School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work is part of the team responsible for developing a new Environmental Engagement Index (EEI) for Northern Ireland, launched earlier this month by Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots.

Dr Kerr worked on the Index over the past 18 months with representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

Unique to Northern Ireland as we lead the way in exploring engagement with and connection to nature, the Index is made up of a series of simple questions which measure connection to nature.  

Launching the Index, Minister Poots said: 

“I am delighted to launch this new Index and look forward to tracking the progress of environmental engagement in future years. There is definitely room for improvement with only 63% of respondents believing their actions affect the environment but I want everyone to realise their actions affect our environment.

“The compassionate nature of the people of Northern Ireland has never been more evident than the level of care they have shown to each other during this pandemic and we now need to show the same level of care for our environment.”

The Minister added: “When asked what the government should prioritise the largest response was for climate change and I have listened. That is one of the reasons I recently launched a consultation on a Climate Change Bill and I would urge everyone to get involved in the consultation as well as going online and taking the environmental engagement index survey.”

Research has shown that if people are connected to nature, they are more likely to look after it. The EEI aims to increase the level of engagement in pro-environmental behaviours by the general public across Northern Ireland.

The Index has a web app and it will measure the value people place on the environment by asking users to take part in a short survey.

Commenting on the Environmental Engagement Index, Dr Kerr said:

“I am very excited and feel privileged to be representing Queen’s on such important work, which informs policy to help protect our environment.

“In Northern Ireland, we are so lucky to be surrounded by such a beautiful natural environment. Taking part in the survey and responding to the consultation on the Climate Change Bill means we can all have our voices heard and increase our awareness of the importance of being connected to and protecting our environment.” 

A baseline survey has already been carried out and it shows that 63 percent of people believe their actions effect the environment, so there is still some way to go.

The EEI will be used yearly to compare the relationship between society and nature. When you complete the Index you get your own score, which you can compare with friends and family. 

The web application for the Index can be accessed via the Live Here Love Here website homepage or by searching online for Environmental Engagement Index Northern Ireland. Alternatively you can use this link: https://eei.liveherelovehere.app/

The Consultation on Climate Change Bill can be found here: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations/climatechangediscussion

All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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