Dimitri Mimy, Master’s student – AY 2021/22

Pro-environmental behaviours of People of Colour in Brooklyn

There is no doubt that mitigating the environmental crisis is urgent and requires meaningful engagement of all stakeholders from individuals, to corporations, to governments.

This is not news. Indeed, researchers have been trying for decades to pinpoint what really gets people to act for the environment, but rarely focusing on marginalised groups, such as People of Colour (POCs). Yet, because of their often lower socio-economic status, POCs tend to bear the brunt of environmental problems and may be less engaged in environmentalism.

Dimitri is studying what drives pro-environmental behaviours (PEBs) by POCs in Brooklyn, under a Theory-of-Planned-Behaviour (TPB) framework. The concept of the TPB is that we can predict any of our behaviours by our intent, which in turn depends on three antecedents:

  1. Our attitude toward the behaviour (how we “feel” about it),
  2. Subjective norms (how we think others who matter to us “feel” about the behaviour and us performing it)
  3. Perceived behavioural control (how easy or hard we think it is to perform it).

This mixed-methods study will start with focus group discussions (FGDs) to identify a set of statements that reflect the range of PEBs and relevant antecedents by a small sample of POC Brooklynites. Next, Dimitri will use these to craft a survey of a much larger population.

Further, Dimitri will address the critique that studies using TPB to understand PEBs often overlook other antecedents. One of these is connection to Nature, though this relationship may vary with race. So, Dimitri will assess survey respondents’ urban-green-space use and exposure in addition to other demographic predictors (e.g., gender identity, education, age).

One goal in New York’s OneNYC 2050 strategy is to “ensure equitable access to Nature”. Although this goal is laudable, its indicators neither mention park quality nor acknowledge that many NYC parks are not green. As such, by quantifying the link between PEBs and UGS use and access, this work may highlight how greening these spaces could nudge the city closer to its sustainability objectives.

The sustainable-city goal is lofty and certainly only achievable with massive community buy-in. Well, the NYC community is largely non-white. So, knowing what promotes and inhibits PEBs by POCs in Brooklyn may inform strategies to increase the number of New Yorkers who act for the environment.