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Making direct connections between humanity and the environment is of ever-increasing importance in the context of today’s environmental crisis. We used qualitative content analysis of precollege- and college-level introductory environmental science textbook case studies to study how they portray humanity’s link to the environment. We assessed case studies for how specific and data rich they are and for how they link together daily life, human impact, and ecological interactions. We found that, for many textbooks, case study stories were vaguely drawn and included few data. We also found that, for all textbooks, case studies almost always described human impacts without linking to their ecological underpinnings and daily life connections were frequently missing from human impact discussion. We use comparisons of case studies to make the argument that data and specific details tell more fleshed-out relatable stories, that connecting to daily life will more likely challenge student perceptions of people as separate from the environment, and that explicit inclusion of ecological interactions into environmental stories better explains how people connect to and impact the rest of the living world.


This work was originally published in CBE - Life Sciences Education, available at

This article is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial– Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (



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