Broadening Participation in the Environmental Movement: Leveraging Insights From Diversity Science
Lecture within the MAD Colloquium series by Adam Pearson
Environmental problems like climate change present a host of unique risks, from threats to public health to unprecedented political and economic challenges. There is considerable evidence that such challenges disproportionately threaten ethnic minority and low-income communities. Within the US, for instance, epidemiological studies indicate that fine air pollutants alone are responsible for nearly 1 in 5 ischemic heart-disease-related deaths nationwide, with the highest mortality rates occurring in racially and ethnically diverse metropolitan areas. Despite these inequities, racial and ethnic minorities remain substantially underrepresented in environmental organizations and key decision making bodies, both within the US and the EU. Although a sizable literature documents both environmental inequities and the political processes that generate and sustain them, few studies have examined psychological processes that might facilitate or impede efforts to address these inequities. Drawing on findings from laboratory experiments and US probability-based surveys, I will argue that two basic misperceptions – about the nature of the US political divide on climate change, and about which groups are concerned about the environment – may impede pro-environmental engagement in minority and low-income communities and contribute to the historically low prioritization of diversity and justice issues in environmental advocacy and policy-making. I will conclude by discussing implications of these findings for building a more inclusive and influential environmental movement.
Adam Pearson is Associate Professor of Psychology at Pomona College and Graduate Faculty in the School of Social Science, Policy, and Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University, and Director of the Pomona Social Cognition and Interaction Lab. He received his Ph.D., M.S., and M.Phil in Psychology from Yale University.