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March 5, 2016 / Rob Dyball

Through a dark lens: Perception and motivation for minority environmentalist


This is the abstract from Gillian’s forthcoming paper to be presented at ESA Fort Lauderdale as part of the Human Ecology Sections symposium Human Ecology, Human Economy: towards good governance of the Anthropocene.

ESA Human Ecology Section Through a dark lens: Perception and motivation for minority environmentalist

Gillian Bowser, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, Rachel Lauwerjssen, Urecht University, Netherlands and Ulrike Gretzel, UQ Business School, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia

Background/Question/Methods ‘Good Governance in the Anthropocene’ demands good governance and engagement for all, not just some privileged few. This holds even if a proposal is somehow ‘good’ in the sense it is biophysically sustainable or enhances the biophysical characteristics of some situation. It must also be just, and fairly engage all of the community. This is particularly important in an urban setting where perceptions of what is natural and what is nature may differ especially among disadvantaged groups who don’t have the luxury of accessing ‘natural wilderness’. What is the perception and motivation that engages vulnerable segments of the society or even just elements of the society marginalized as outside the environmental elite? Here we explore perception and motivation for attending environmentally themed events to understand why segments of the population may engage or disengage on environmental issues and to understand what the young people’s own perceptions are. If these communities don’t value these environmental initiatives on their own terms then, however well intentioned, the initiative isn’t going to succeed. We used semi-structured interviews and video essays at a bioblitz, a 24 hour environmentally themed event to collect information on biodiversity.  We interviewed over 70 participants with 31 minority youth at a bioblitz in Hawaii Volcano National Park where the local community was over 70% minority and an ESA Urban bioblitz at Baltimore with a mixed population of ESA attendees and local participants. Each interview was analyzed for sentiment and associations using three independent researchers and the summed results were compared for text and sentiment (positive/negative).

Results/Conclusions Minority youth differed in their motivations for participation from both the general public and from white youth.  Motivation between science learning and professional experience were strong for white participants yet for minorities (Hawaiian Native and Mixed race), social dynamics seemed to play a more important role.  This trend held even when looking at a more selected group of minority students (at the Baltimore bioblitz) where the similar metrics differed between white and minority participants.  In conclusion, understanding motivation and perception may lead to greater engagement in governance as minorities are a heterogeneous group with different motivational structures and yet they may share a common perception of environmental activities being exclusive and non-social.

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