Who gets be called an Environmentalist?

Photo: Joe Brusky/ CC BY-NC 2.0

When you hear the term “environmentalist” what type of person do you automatically picture? For many Americans, the image that’s conjured is one of a well-educated, middle-class white person, according to a new study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Not only do minority groups underestimate their own concern for the environment but the study makes it evident that all Americans underestimate the contributions of people of color to the environmental movement. 

The level of concern reported by minority and poor groups are generally much higher than the public perception. (Pearson et al., PNAS)

As City Lab explained, “when researchers asked participants in the study to rate their own environmental concern on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “extremely concerned,” minority and poorer groups rated themselves on average above a 3 (moderately concerned). Latinos reported the highest level of concern, about 3.5. The averages for white and wealthy groups, meanwhile, hovered just around 3.

And when researchers asked whether they considered themselves environmentalists, roughly two-thirds of Latino and Asian respondents responded positively, compared to only half of white respondents. (Only a third of black respondents associated themselves with that term.) Yet when asked to rate other groups, participants strongly underestimated the level of concern of all demographics except whites, women, and young Americans.” The study noted that its findings point to false beliefs about the environmental concerns of vulnerable populations as a potential impediment to addressing environmental inequities and broadening public participation in environmental decision making.

Why This Matters: Stereotypes that minorities don’t care about the environment lead to serious misrepresentation in environmental groups and also can lead to lapses in policymaking when the concerns of minority communities are overlooked. When fewer people of color are invited to the table to make environmental decisions, our public policy suffers. We recently featured Grist’s interview with Dr. Dorceta Taylor, who published “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations” which comprehensively highlighted the lack of diversity in green groups and she explained that “The perception that people of color don’t care about the environment has existed for a long time, and has been debunked for just as long.” Minority communities have made immense contributions to the fight for our planet and it’s critical that they are made a central part of the environmental movement especially since these same groups are disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change.

 

Up Next

The NRA’s Cozy Relationship With the US Interior Department

The NRA’s Cozy Relationship With the US Interior Department

In an investigative piece, the Guardian has revealed rampant corruption happening in the Interior Department where a top official (Benjamin Cassidy, a former NRA lobbyist) did a series of special favors for the National Rifle Association. This is just a glimpse of the NRA’s influence over the Interior department: The appointment of Susan LaPierre, a […]

Continue Reading 399 words
Interview of the Week: Maria Devaney, Founder of Blue S.O.S.

Interview of the Week: Maria Devaney, Founder of Blue S.O.S.

Maria Devaney is the Founder of Blue S.O.S., which organizes next-gen consumers behind ocean-friendly brands in the fashion, beauty, technology, and travel industries. ODP:  This year, the theme of the World Economic Forum was sustainability.  The fashion industry has a role to play.  What did the industry announce this week about its sustainability effort? MD:  […]

Continue Reading 699 words
The Business Case For Nature Is Being Made At World Economic Forum

The Business Case For Nature Is Being Made At World Economic Forum

A new report entitled “Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy” that was just released to coincide with the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum makes it clear that businesses are more dependent on nature than previously thought, with approximately $44 trillion of economic value generation moderately or highly dependent on nature.

Why This Matters:  As if we needed more reasons why we should save nature, now the World Economic Forum’s experts make it clear that it is in the world’s financial interest to do so.

Continue Reading 506 words