Urban Environmentalism: Interview Updates – Part I

I, unfortunately, haven’t been documenting the necessary updates about my interview on the class site. A continued update of the progress will be published throughout today. As such, I wanted to give some updates about where I am in this project. I began by interviewing 3 peers from states with different political affiliations to understand how their political background can impact their understanding of climate change and environmentalism.  From these interviews, I got perspectives from a red state, a blue state and a swing state. Given that issues of climate change and environmentalism have become heavily politicized I wanted to investigate if these definitions change between regions and hopefully unearth an area to work on to increase urban environmentalism. In addition to understand urban environmentalism, I am investigating the connection between being a person of color and engagement with environmentalism and climate change. For this reason, I also chose to solely interview people of color. As such, I asked all of my peers the same questions, with additional questions asked depending on the interviewee. The overlapped core questions went as followed:

      1. Where are you from?
      2. What is your cities policies/stances on climate change?
      3. Would you say you are an environmentalist?
      4. What is your definition of environmentalist or environmentalism?
      5. How does your community understand environmentalism?
        1. Community here was defined not as your entire city but as cultural affiliation.
      6. How does this idea play into the latinx/black/asian community at home?
      7. How has your understanding of environmentalism evolve?
      8. What caused these changes?
      9. How would you compare your evolution on the topic to your peers back home?
      10. What do you think it would take for you and people in your community to make changes?
      11. Do you think environmentalism is inaccessible? Why?
      12. Who do you think has the biggest responsibility to prevent climate change?
In conducting these interviews, I actually found that the answers changed very little across racial demographics and political demographics. None of the people I Interviewed would consider themselves an environmentalist. They did not think people in their community generally considered their environmental impact; most people attributed the lack of concern with the lack of convenience that comes with making environmentally conscious choices. More importantly, the discovery I had in these conversation was that people felt they became more aware of their environmental impact because of college attesting that the difference in what makes this an issue of importance is education. I think the reason I assumed this may actually play among racial lines is because education in America is so inherently tied into class and race. Similarly, I was surprised that everyone recognized the real change would come from forcing corporation to be more environmentally conscious but none believed that change will ultimately come; as a consequence, interviewees ultimately believed the responsibility to stop climate change would land on the individual.
To summarize, the parts I found most important from my first interviews came from:
  1. recognizing that few people deem themselves to be environmentalist because the actions and mentality they would associate with environmentalism had too high of a barrier of entry
  2. education seems to be the deciding factor in how urgent and prominent you find the issue of climate change to be
  3. people don’t engage in having a smaller environmental impact because of convenience
  4. while people recognize the largest perpetrators of climate change, they don’t believe there is a way to create change so the change must come from the individual

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