Cultivando Comunidad: A Community-Based Approach to Study the Link between Cultural and Environmental Identities in Latinxs Living in the Seattle Metropolitan Area
Carrera Zamanillo, Maria Isabel
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The extent of biodiversity losses in natural ecosystems has accelerated mainly due to anthropogenic causes. The governance of natural resources and environmental policies attempting to address these losses usually reflect the economic and environmental behavior of limited groups of people in power positions. As a results, environmental policies tend not to reflect the diversity in environmental values and cultural links to environmental behaviors. Previous studies have mostly focused on explaining psychological factors that guide pro-environmental behavior. These studies have focused on values linked to the modern environmentalism movement, which adopts a more globalized ideal of sustainability. Recent studies have started to pay attention to the human health links to nature. However, all these approaches explore these relationships at an individual level and have not attempted to address whether socially transmitted behavior patterns, such as cultural values, have an impact on attitudes and decision-making processes related to the natural environment. In fact, some researchers have postulated that some members of a group may have stronger sense of connectedness to nature that is expressed as stronger pro-environmental values. Furthermore, a sense of connectedness to nature is affected by personal experiences, memories and habits guided by ethnic or cultural identities. The focus of this research was to look into the strength of connections a group of people – Latinxs - have to nature through their food choices, i.e., foodways. Food represents the first contact many people have to nature, so foodways become a rich lens through which the connection to nature and pro-environmental decision-making can be analyzed. In addition, foodways can serve to index tendencies in the attitudes toward nature of smaller populations living at a local or regional scale. The objective of this research was to explore the links between cultural and environmental identities through the lens of traditional foodways. It specifically focused on the impact of migration on day to day food practices and values in Latinxs living in the Seattle metropolitan area, to analyze if there is in fact a link between cultural and environmental identities. A mixed methods approach was used to describe extensively and intensively participants’ habits related to a sense of belonging and a sense of connectedness to nature according to their own perspectives. A multidimensional analysis approach allowed data collection to occur using an iterative and multi-stage process that combined qualitative and quantitative methods. This research supports anecdotal evidence that ethnic and cultural links may contribute to Latinxs sense of connectedness to nature, and therefore, environmental behavior. Foodways was an effective index to detect ethnic and cultural links to environment decisions that could not have been identified by correlating cultural and environmental factors. In this sense, foodways constituted a representation of the beliefs and values that sustain traditional forms of knowledge based on experiences and interaction with the surrounding social and bio-physical environments. This knowledge is transmitted through several generations shaping the way in which members of determined communities interact with nature. Although, these forms of knowledge are dynamic and can be transformed through processes such as migration and transculturation. The change in values and beliefs resulted in changes of habits as a form of adaptation. The study of these adaptation processes could inform current studies in resilience and provide information at a local scale. The relevance of adopting a more contextualized approach to understand the environmental attitudes of specific groups of people results in the potential to create more inclusive and representative environmental policies. Since Latinxs are becoming one of the largest minority groups in the United States, this study is crucial not only to promote a stronger involvement of this segment of the population in environmental decision-making, but as a way of facilitating their social integration and put in practice the principles of environmental justice.
- Forestry